Woodburn's Veliz joins 2,000-point club
In the waning moments of the No. 4 Woodburn boys basketball team's loss to the No. 3 Stayton Eagles on Friday, senior guard R.J. Veliz stole an inbound pass and converted it for a quick two points.
The Bulldogs forced another turnover on the next possession, and the ball found its way into the hands of Veliz at the top of the 3-point line. He knocked it home with 10 ticks left on the clock to pull Woodburn within 59-49.
Ultimately, the points had no bearing on the outcome of yet another double-digit loss to the league-leading Eagles (17-3, 10-0 Oregon West Conference), who scored a quick layup at the other end in the final seconds to lift Stayton to a 61-49 victory. But in the greater context of Oregon high school athletic history, those five points were deeply significant.
Veliz entered Friday's game needing 20 points to reach 2,000 for his career, and with his final two buckets in the last minute, he became just the 22nd boys high school basketball player in state history to reach the historic milestone.
But in the wake Woodburn's second loss this season to Stayton, particularly one in which the Bulldogs worked well to contain the Eagles' 6-foot-8 all-state center Kaleb Anundi, Veliz was not eager to celebrate the personal accomplishment.
"The win means more than anything," Veliz said. "2,000 is fun and all, but the win is more important. It's all for nothing if we don't get our ultimate goal."
The Bulldogs came into Friday's game looking to make up for a 17-point loss to the Eagles in January, a defeat in which Veliz was held to just single digits in scoring as Stayton quickly ran away with the contest.
The rematch seemed to go much better on Woodburn's home court. Though the Eagles raced out to an 8-2 advantage and led 20-13 after the first quarter, Anundi picked up his second foul after just five minutes of play and went to the bench for the remainder of the half.
The Bulldogs held Anundi to just 13 points in the game, well below his season average of nearly 30 points per contest. But with Anundi riding the pine, the Eagles relied on their outside shooting to stay out in front, connecting on eight triples from beyond the arc, including four from senior Jordan Butler.
"I think that we did a great job on (Anundi) the whole game," Veliz said. "Their shooters couldn't really miss, and that's just how it goes some times."
Yet Woodburn kept it close. Despite fighting through a platoon of defenders, Veliz scored seven points in the second quarter and the Bulldogs closed within 29-24 at the half.
But Woodburn went into a prolonged shooting slump coming out of the break, and though Anundi was held to just three free throws in the quarter, his presence allowed Stayton to spread its offensive wings and the Eagles went on an 11-3 run to build a 46-31 advantage going into the final eight minutes.
"We had a shooting slump in the third quarter," Veliz said. "We put up a fight. That's why I guess I'm not totally mad at this game. We played tougher, but today wasn't our night."
The Eagles scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to take a 52-31 lead to put the game well out of reach. Woodburn senior Ryan Stebner knocked down a pair of 3's, as did fellow backcourt teammate Trevor Karsseboom, but the Eagles went to Anundi to ice the game, and the all-state center answered with eight points in the quarter.
With the final minute left to play and the game well in hand, Veliz took advantage of lax ball control on Stayton's part to pick up his final two baskets, reaching the 2,000-point threshold in front of a home crowd.
"I didn't even know where I was at, I was just trying to compete and get the score down," he said. "I compete until the last second, that's what we're going to do until the state championship."
In addition to the Veliz, Stebner was the only other Woodburn player to reach double figures in scoring with 13 points.
Butler led the Eagles with 16 points, followed by Anundi and Riley Nichol (12).
The loss all but assured Woodburn (17-4, 7-2) would finish second in the conference standings behind the Eagles, who clinched the Oregon West title with the victory.
Woodburn was scheduled to travel to Newport (9-12, 2-7) on Tuesday and finished the regular season with back-to-back home games against Cascade (11-9, 3-6) on Friday and No. 7 Philomath (12-8, 4-5) on Feb. 19.
Oregon high school boys basketball career scoring leaders
1. 2,628 Kevin Love, Lake Oswego 2007
2. 2,582 Bob "Pudgy" Hunt, Knappa 1957
3. 2,515 Brian Jackson, Knappa 1999
4. 2,394 Drew Wiley, McKenzie (3) Thurston (1) 2008
5. 2,331 Brad Tinsley, Oregon City 2008
6. 2,324 Jeremy Rosenbalm, Arlington 2004
7. 2,273 Zach Bernards, Dayton 2017
8. 2,219 Salim Stoudamire, Lincoln (1) Lake Oswego (3) 2001
9. 2,207 Kyle Singler, South Medford 2007
10. 2,178 John Stevens, Griswold 1958
11. 2,117 Clay Sullivan, Vernonia 2018
12. 2,114 Payton Pritchard, West Linn 2016
13. 2,095 Luke Jackson, Creswell 2000
14. 2,095 Zack Van Loon, Yoncalla 2016
15. 2,073 Richard Washington, Benson 1973
16. 2,071 Tony Ross, Grant 1986
17. 2.051 Jordan Tebbutt, Horizon Christian (3) 2011
18. 2,040 Dick Maurer, Prospect 1970
19. 2,020 Terry Boesel, Powder Valley 1980
20. 2,016 Zach Gengler, Silverton 2013
21. 2,011 J.D. Hill, East Linn Christian 2002
22. 2,000 R.J. Veliz, Woodburn (1), Blanchet Catholic (3) 2019
23. 1,989 Joshua Dressler, Portland Lutheran 2005
24. 1,981 Derek Anderson, Scappoose 2001
25. 1,973 Brenson Parks, Lowell 1997
— Courtesy of Mal Van Meer & Larry Moulton