Two former Gaston basketball stars help their team win title

Austin Waibel and Austin Morey helped Gaston reach new heights on the basketball court the last few seasons, so it was only fitting that the two graduated seniors went out on a high note while playing in the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association Summer All-Star Basketball Series.

Waibel and Morey teamed up one last time to help guide the North team to a championship in the 42nd annual all-star event, which featured the state’s best basketball players from Classes 4A, 3A and 2A.

“It was a pretty cool experience for them to play against some of the best players in the state and see that they stack up with the best,” said Gaston head coach Marc Roche, who served as an assistant coach for the North squad. “They just graduated and they’re officially done with high school, but they got one more chance to lace it up, one more chance to wear their Gaston jerseys.

“I was a part of (the all-star series) last year, but it was a little more special having a couple Gaston kids along this year. They’ve been a huge part of what we’ve accomplished the last few years and they deserved that recognition.”

Waibel was named the Northwest League player of the year this past winter after averaging 16.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and he shot 50 percent from the floor (148-for-294).

Morey was a first team all-league selection following a senior season in which he averaged 10.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game. He was also the team’s leading 3-point shooter, making 26 percent of his shots from long range (20-for-76).

Those two players helped lead the Greyhounds to a 19-6 overall record and a regular-season league title with a 15-1 mark. Gaston qualified for the state playoffs for the fourth straight year, although the Hounds failed to advance out of the first round.

“I encouraged all of the other kids (in the basketball program) to come out and watch, because I think it’s inspiring to see these guys do well and it makes the younger kids strive for that level of success,” Roche said. “The two Austins helped raise the bar for Gaston.”

The OACA all-star series was played last Friday at the Morse Events Center in Eugene and Saturday at Sprague High School in Salem. The North team picked up a 69-62 victory over the West team in Friday’s opener, and the North secured the overall championship on Saturday with an 84-75 win against the South team.

Roche said both games were atypical of all-star basketball, with teams playing tough, aggressive defense instead of the offense-only style that normally prevails.

“Usually all-star games are really lackadaisical, but guys were playing really hard — hustling for loose balls and grabbing rebounds, stuff you don’t usually see in an all-star game,” Roche said.

Waibel and Morey set the tone for that, playing Gaston’s typically intense brand of defense during both games.

“Defense is kind of what our team’s forte was this year, and both guys did a great job of playing hard on both ends of the floor,” Roche said. “It’s more fun for everyone if everyone does what they can to help the team win instead of being focused on who scores the most points. I thought both guys did a good job of just giving the team what it needed to succeed.”

Morey started Friday’s game and contributed seven points and two rebounds in 24 minutes of action. Waibel came off the bench for five points, three rebounds and three steals in 17 minutes.

While Waibel and Morey were asked to shoulder much of the scoring burden for Gaston this past season, they had to settle into different roles for the all-star series, where they were teamed with several college-bound players.

“We talked to our guys beforehand and told them, ‘You’re our main scorers for Gaston, but there are a lot of guys who can score here,’” Roche recalled. “The guys filled their roles. It was cool to see them distributing and getting other guys involved. They did some scoring, but they did a lot of other little things.”

For Roche, it was a great chance to coach his seniors one last time.

“It was so much fun to coach those guys one more time,” he said. “They’re two greatly talented basketball players and great athletes, but they’re also just great kids. Just visiting with them and joking around with them one more time, that was really the fun part.

“Getting to know these boys as they became men, from that standpoint this was really a nice last hurrah.”

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