The streak's over. After consecutive losses following a 2-0 start, the Aloha boys basketball team righted the ship with a 56-46 win over Lakeridge in the opening game of the Forest Grove Tournament Friday night, Dec. 10, at Forest Grove High School.
The Warriors were led by senior forward Sidney Jones who tallied 18 points and seven rebounds. Jones said afterwards that it was what the team needed after back-to-back defeats to McDaniel and Tigard, games in which they seemed to get away from the team mentality needed to be successful.
"We played together for the first time in two games," Jones said. "The last two games have been kind of rough, but tonight we moved the ball around, got everyone involved and it allowed us to get some momentum."
Aloha led 13-9 after a quarter thanks in large part to Jones' nine early points.
The second quarter saw a much more well-rounded attack, with the Warriors getting contributions on both ends of the floor from a number of players, including forward Michael Dennis III who scored seven in the quarter to help his team to a 29-26 halftime lead.
Aloha head coach Brett Vernon attributed much of the second quarter boost to his second unit which provided a heightened level of energy off the bench. Unfortunately, however, that momentum didn't carry â€“ at least offensively â€“ into the third quarter, where the loss of point guard Hunter Reeve led to a lull that resulted in just eight third quarter points.
"Hunter has done a great job just kind of being the floor general for us, and when he got hit in the face he had to sit out," Vernon said. "It hurt us for a bit, but it was nice to see who stepped up."
Leading just 37-34 at the end of the third quarter, who stepped up â€“ at least immediately â€“ was senior guard Anthony Liggins who hit a deep three-pointer to open the final stanza. Then senior wing Hunter Gerard who finished with 10 points but did the bulk of his work on the boards stepped up, grabbing nine rebounds.
Both Liggins and Gerard also did yeoman's work getting the ball to Jones and Dennis III, who when called upon finished either in the paint or â€“ in Jones' case â€“ on the perimeter.
"When our bigs get the ball, they score," Vernon said. "It's just that sometimes they lack getting the ball, so our guys did a nice job tonight handling the ball and finding the open man."
Jones â€“ who's averaging 18 points per game through five games â€“ made it look easy for most of the game versus the Pacers, which at times begged the question: why not shoot more? But Vernon says he'll do so when called upon, but â€“ like his teammates â€“ Jones' natural tendency is to play unselfishly â€“ which is a good problem if you're the standout's coach.
"That's our team," Vernon said. "I've coached teams with guys who shoot 25 times a game, but Sidney's not that kid. He does a great job looking for everyone else and isn't always just looking to score. He's very unselfish, which is great to have a star like that, but we're working on him to be a guy that shoots 15-20 times a game."
They didn't need it against Lakeridge on this night, but as they progress further in the season and as the Metro slate approaches, Jones said both he and his team will be ready â€“ and that's exciting.
"We have some great pieces and I think this is just a taste of what we can do," Jones said. "I'm really excited for the Metro season to get here."
Vernon agreed that it should be fun, but also understands the always sizable task ahead of what is annually a very competitive league schedule.
"It's a gauntlet and every game is going to be tough, but these guys don't back down," the coach said. "They're getting better every single night and we've seen that so far."
Aloha scorers included: Jones 18, Dennis III 15, Gerard 10, Dawson Cowlthorp 6, Liggins 4, Reeve 3.
Lakeridge scorers included: Jace Swygard 9, Colby Ackerman 8, Cole Holum 8, Jesse Gustar 5, David Ghetie 5, Ethan Eckard 4, Jack Ulwelling 3, Miles O'Sullivan 2, Patrick Napierala 2.
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