by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Senior senior forward Charles Wenzel ducks under a Clackamas double team on his way to the hoop in the first quarter of the Apollos 6A playoff win on Saturday.

Needless to say, given the choice, Sunset would’ve preferred to play late on Friday night instead of early the same morning.

After dropping a dismaying 72-65 6A state quarterfinal decision to South Salem on Thursday, however, the Apollos unfortunately didn’t have the right to make that decision. If Sunset wanted bring home any sort of trophy, the consolation bracket — better known as the breakfast club — would have to make due.

So, still licking its wounds from the sourness of the Saxon defeat, Sunset furled out of bed early Friday morning, rolled up its sleeves and went about playing for pride rather than first place against Clackamas.

In front of a sparse Moda Center crowd, the Apollos played with passion, resolve and, as only senior guard Mikey Fey could put it, they played to win. Taking control down the stretch with Fey making momentous plays in the final two minutes, Sunset saw to it that it would place at the state tournament for the second straight year, clipping Clackamas, 60-55.

“We knew going into this game, this could be it,” said senior post Tyler Gutierrez. ”One of those two teams was going to end their careers today. We just decided that wasn’t going to be us. We were going to win.”

“It was a real gutty, character type of win,” said senior wing Jeff Bieber. “We didn’t want to go out going 0-2 at the Moda Center after winning the Metro championship. I don’t think that would’ve sat well with any of us. We sucked it up, moved on pretty quick and got after it today.”

With Clackamas in the double bonus, Fey drew a foul about 35 feet from the basket, then swished both free throws at the line to reclaim a 57-55 lead with 40 seconds left.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior point guard Taylor Harris drives into the teeth of Clackamas defense in the second quarter of the Apollos consolation win on Friday.

On the ensuing possession following a foul on Bieber, Clackamas tried to get the ball in-bounds from underneath its own basket, but Fey jumped the pass and tied up Cavalier forward Cade Wilkins for a jump ball. With the possession arrow pointing Sunset’s way, the Apollos got the ball back, up two with 25 seconds left. Bieber marched to the free throw line and calmly made two free throws to pad Sunset’s lead to 59-55 with 22 seconds to go.

“We didn’t want that loss last night to shape our season,” said Fey who filled the stat sheet with 14 points, nine rebounds and two assists.

. “We had to come back, fight and get the win. We wanted to have fun out there, but be competitive. Coach (Todd) Sherwood said whoever wanted to be here more was going to win today. I felt like we wanted it more toward the end.”

Clackamas missed both free throws with 7.6 seconds left and Fey hit one of two at the line to advance to the consolation finals on Saturday against South Medford.

“Everybody held their composure very, very well,” said Gutierrez. “That’s one of those games that could get chippy. We might not have got some of the calls we wanted to, but we didn’t let that affect the way we closed it out. We played solid, made the right play every time and knocked down shots when we needed to.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior forward Tyler Gutierrez bounced back from a tough South Salem contest with 24 points and five blocks against Clackamas on Friday.

Any hangover from the South Salem loss was cleared early as Sunset competed with energy and emotion in the first quarter. Gutierrez hit a three from the right wing and scored five points to help the Apollos grab an early 13-7 lead.

Clackamas —ranked second in the state going into the consolation contest after getting booted by Sheldon— roared back with a 9-0 run in the second quarter that helped the Cavs claim a 29-21 halftime advantage.

“We’ve played that team so many times, even before high school and it’s always been a battle,” said Gutierrez.

Confronting their second halftime hole to climb out of in as many days, the increasingly tough Apollos tightened the defense up in the third quarter and got on the comeback trail.

Fey— starting in place of an injured Glenn Tanguy— was Sunset’s fire starter, flying into the paint, grabbing an offensive board and kicking it out to Tyler Harris for a top of the key three. Trailing 35-31, the 5-foot-10 guard went amongst the Cavalier bigs, finished at the rim with contact and completed the three-point play to cut Clackamas’ lead to 35-33.

Bieber scored six straight points in the third and barreled into the lane for game-tying two, 42-42. Guitierrez finished a give-and-go with Tanguy on the break after a Clackamas turnover, then the big man swished the free throw to give Sunset its first lead since early in the second quarter, 45-42.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset sophomore point guard Zach Niebergall gets into the lane against Clackamas for a floater.

“We gutted it out in a way that only we knew how to do,” said Bieber. “It all started on the defensive end. We gave up 10 lay-ups in the first half, so we put the clamps on defense and figured our offense would take care of itself. We took it one possession at a time, one quarter at a time. We said whatever happens, happens, just play smart and play together.”

Harris brought in an offensive board and powered it in off the glass to go up 47-42 with 1:11 left. Gutierrez—who battled foul trouble against South Salem— played like a man possessed, nearly doming a Cavalier cheerleader by swatting a shot into the Clackamas student section at the end of the third quarter. Guitierrez blocked five shots, grabbed eight boards and scored a game-high 24 points including three-for-three from three-point land.

“If it didn’t mean a lot to us, we wouldn’t have played this hard,” said Bieber, who scored 13 points and hauled in six rebounds. “Down by eight, if this wouldn’t have meant anything we would’ve bagged it. But, we care. We wanted to do it for our community and our school.”

Sunset went out on a high note against South Medford, putting the Panthers away with a big third quarter that gave the senior-heavy Apollos enough of a cushion to take home fourth place on Saturday, 50-44.

“Fourth place, we’re still proud of that,” said Fey. “More importantly, ending the season on a win is a great feeling.”

Harris scored 11 of his 16 points in the first half, while Bieber (seven) and Fey (six) were also crucial in helping the Apollos get out to a 28-20 halftime lead. Bieber had 15 points and six rebounds.

“We’re only one of three teams to end our season on a win,” noted Gutierrez. “We got the Metro League championship and then fourth place at state is not a bad place to be at all. I’m proud of how far we’ve come. We wanted to end it right.”

“I think this creates a good expectation for Sunset basketball,” added Bieber. “Coach (Todd) Sherwood, Coach (Brent) Buell, Coach (Chris) Gaydos do a great job getting us prepared. We’ve set that bar high for the next generation and the next years of Sunset basketball.”

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