Jaczko's buzzer beater lifts Newberg boys basketball to 38-36 win over Canby
Sinking a game-winning shot as time expires is a scenario that so many young basketball players dream about, it's pretty much become universal.
Newberg junior wing Alex Jaczko got to live it out Friday night, draining a 10-foot jumper to lift the Tigers to a 38-36 victory home victory over Canby.
And while the ending played out according to script, it's not likely he could have imagined the bizarre sequence of plays that led up to the dramatic finish.
That's in large part because, up until that point, the contest had been a particularly slow and plodding one, with both teams often content to run their offenses for a minute or more before attempting a shot.
Yet, they managed to squeeze three plays and quite a bit of drama into just 5.7 seconds.
Canby had knotted the contest, 36-36, on a Diego Arredondo 3-pointer with 1:33 remaining, but Newberg wound up taking two time outs to set up what everyone in attendance figured to be the final play of the game with just that small amount of time left on the clock.
The Tigers inbounded the ball to sophomore point guard Jack Chlumak with the expectation that he would find Jaczko cutting to the basket, but the junior wing and leading scorer cut his run short and Chlumak's bounce pass tumbled out of bounds with 1.6 seconds to go.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Newberg had an extra defender on hand for the Cougars' ensuing inbounds play: one of the many large wooden beams that stretch across the court in support of the building's roof.
Canby did not take into account McGrath Gymnasium's low ceiling and its heave down court was cut off by a beam about 10 feet away, rebounding back over the baseline without ever entering play or running any time off the clock.
Newberg head coach Mark Brown, on the other hand, was aware of his gym's quirk and it figured in his plan to defend the inbounds play, though he didn't quite expect that result when he chose to put a defender on the baseline.
"There was definitely some home-court advantage in that one," Brown said. "Most gyms in that situation, in a tight ball game, I'm sending my fifth guy back to play free safety, so we can counter whatever they do and go up and catch it. In this gym, nine times out of 10, if you put hands on the ball, they're going to throw it high, so definitely a home-court advantage."
The structure of McGrath Gymnasium is quite well known among opponents for giving the Tigers an advantage, but it's not the low ceiling that typically draws the ire of visiting basketball players (though, it may be a different story with volleyball).
Rather it's the wide-open space behind each basket at either end of the court that tends to throw off their depth perception for shooting, especially for those accustomed to gyms with walls only a few feet behind each hoop.
"It's tough to play in this gym," Canby senior Wade Brewer said. "It's a hard gym and everybody knows that. We just couldn't get it done tonight."
Overall, head coach Craig Evans was pleased with how his team defended and how it controlled the pace of play with its patient offense.
The possession that resulted in Arredondo's game-tying 3-pointer epitomized the Cougar's evening at that end of the floor. It began with 2:35 remaining on the clock, but the players were patient, diagnosing how Newberg was defending and waiting to set up the appropriate play to free the freshman, who finished with six points.
"We practice that a lot," Evans said. "We run our offense for a while and then whatever we need at that moment, whatever matchup we have at that time, we'll run a set to get that person open. The way they were playing Diego, they finally put somebody with pressure on him, so we knew we could get the flare screen out and that's what happened."
Brewer led Canby with 13 points and was disappointed the Cougars let Newberg take control of the game in the second half.
For Evans, it came down to the last few plays, which just happened to go the home team's way, which is not unusual when these two teams meet.
"This gym, the last two times I've been here, it's been won on the last shot, last year by us, this year by them" Evans said.
Being a coach, Brown's favorite part about the final sequence of plays was not so much that Jaczko hit the shot, enjoyable as it was, or even how the inbounds play, which he had just installed this week, got him free to take it. Rather, it was how Jaczko and Chlumak reacted to the miscommunication that resulted in the turnover with 1.6 seconds to go.
"I saw Alex look at Jack and say, 'My bad,'" Brown said. "Jack walked up to him, gave him a high five and said, 'It's okay." Instead of them getting upset or frustrated, they came together and said, 'Hey. Let's get the next one.' That's something we've been talking about is next play. So that was fun to see."
Jazcko, who scored all 10 of Newberg's points in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 16, seemed to be brimming with confidence down the stretch and clearly wasn't affected by the almost costly turnover.
"I was feeling it the first time and when they turned the ball over, I felt like, 'I'm going to get this next one,'" Jaczko said. "I had full confidence that our team was going to execute and they did."
He and the No. 34 Tigers (10-11, 4-7 Three Rivers League) are fighting to keep their ranking high enough to qualify for an OSAA play-in game, as is Canby at No. 38. With just three games left, both will have to beat some good teams in order to do it, beginning Tuesday when Newberg will visit Sherwood and the Cougars (6-15, 2-9)will travel to league-leading Lake Oswego.
"I feel like we have something to prove to the other teams in our league," Jaczko said.
As for getting to play out the basketball fantasy, ubiquitous or not, on a real court in an actual game, Jaczko said the experience is worth dreaming about.
"It's totally what you live for, what you work for," Jaczko said. "You always want that moment of taking the last shot."