The Buffs are ready to put 2021 in the rear view mirror.
Following a 1-2 showing at the Sisters Holiday Shootout, the Madras boys basketball team dropped to 4-6 on the season through 10 games.
A 58-49 win over Mazama was bookended by losses to Sisters and Trinity Lutheran during the three-day event, which was held Dec. 28-30 at both the high school and the middle school in Sisters.
The Holiday Shootout is usually an eight-team tournament, but when multiple teams pulled out at the last second, event organizers were forced to scrap the bracket altogether.
"The bracket kind of went to shambles," said Madras head coach after last Thursday's game against Trinity Lutheran. Snowy conditions kept some schools from making the trip. "We had a couple teams not make it over the pass."
Thankfully, some nearby schools like Trinity Lutheran and Crook County were able to brave the snowy conditions to make brief cameos in Sisters.
Madras opened up the proceedings by taking on the hosting Outlaws of Sisters. The home team hopped out to a 10-point lead after the first quarter that ballooned to 15 by halftime, spelling danger for the visiting Buffs.
The second half proved a different story, though, as Madras made a furious comeback at the end of the third quarter. Hekili Harry made a pair of 3-pointers late in the period to make it 40-32 going into the fourth.
The Buffs' defense held the Sisters offense without a field goal in the fourth quarter, and Madras pulled within a point at 42-41 after a Dru Boyle basket. The Outlaws hit a pair of free throws to go back up three, but Madras could not find a game-tying basket before time expired.
In the next game, Madras squared off with Mazama in a matchup of Highway 97 foes.
After one quarter, the teams were deadlocked at 11 points each; however, a big defensive effort in the second quarter saw Madras take a 26-16 lead into the break.
The Vikings stormed back in the third quarter, nearly erasing the deficit before Wade Simmelink put the Buffs back up 39-36 heading into the final eight minutes.
Seneca Ball and Skytus Smith both hit 3-pointers, and Simmelink converted on a three-point play the hard way, giving Madras a 50-41 lead down the stretch. From there, the Buffs closed it out for a 58-49 victory.
The third and final game of the Holiday Shootout was a rematch for Madras, as the Buffs went up against Trinity Lutheran. Madras won the first matchup in Bend back on Dec. 7, but the Saints and their star, Scooty Gilbert, would not be denied again.
Trinity Lutheran took a slim 31-29 lead into the locker room at the half, and the White Buffalos trailed by just four points after three quarters of play.
The fourth quarter proved sadly disastrous for Madras, as the Saints used a 12-0 run to put away the game. Trinity Lutheran went on to win the game 64Â-49.
While there was no hardware handed out at the Holiday Shootout, there were some hard lessons.
For Brown, the main lesson was clear: the Buffs need to learn how to play at their best from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
"I think it's just putting a consistent 32 minutes of basketball, with hard work for the entire time," said Brown of his takeaways from the event. "It's nothing Xs and Os. It's more looking inside ourselves and digging deep, changing some habits we've had the last few days to make sure we're working hard on a regular basis."
The White Buffalos did show flashes of that work ethic over the weekend, but it would prove to be the exception and not the rule.
"We were happy with what we did against Mazama," said Brown of the team's win. "We played hard, played well. The other two days were a little frustrating for us. "Well, a lot frustrating for us. Just didn't have the energy and work ethic that we would like."
The Buffs look to finish the non-league campaign on a high note with two games at home this weekend.
On Friday night, Madras hosts the Baker Bulldogs at 5:30 p.m. in the Buffalo Dome. Then in a 12:30 p.m. game on Saturday, the White Buffalos attempt to tame the Tigers of La Grande.
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