Scappoose is now 4-1 at the halfway mark of the league season

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Tribe junior Robby Backus goes up for a layup during the Indians' 60-55 win over Yamhill-Carlton. Whether by skill, luck or a little fairy-dust, the Indians are at it again, brimming with confidence after another thrilling victory.

With just seconds remaining in regulation Scappoose (11-8, 4-1 Cowapa) found themselves trailing in Astoria by three on Tuesday night. Not to worry. A scrum in the middle fell to junior Jacob Wendelschafer, who dished outside to a waiting and open Chase Johnson. Though he hadn't taken a three-pointer all year, Johnson elevated and sent the Indians to overtime, where they prevailed 63-57 to retain second place in the Cowapa League.

They're at the midway point of their season, a year in which they'll attempt an unlikely third consecutive league championship. And though they'll have to beat a solid Tillamook squad on the road in their next game to have a chance of catching the Cheesemakers, things might not be so much of a long shot with the way Scappoose is playing.

Last week, it was an overtime win at Banks. Then the Indians won it at the last second with a bucket and free throw from senior Mitch Davis. Then came the rally to beat Yamhill-Carlton last Friday at home, and the thriller in Astoria to cap a four-game winning streak.

The funny thing is, according to Head Coach Rahim Tufts, the team isn't even at the top of their game.

“There’s been grinds,” he said. “And it's a testament to our guys working hard and making plays when they have to, and we're still not playing our best basketball. It'd be one thing if we were like ‘oh my gosh, we're playing out of our minds. We've won four games, can we keep it up?' We haven't played our best, [but] we keep making plays at the end to win. Let's keep getting better and let's keep this thing going.”

The biggest boost from the stretch of wins has been confidence, both in the team and individually. Johnson and Davis are the closers, but the team is getting contributions from up and down the roster, especially on defense.

For now, Tufts doesn't see major changes needed in the team in order to sweep the second half of the season. They'll have their toughest game, a Feb. 7 match up with Tillamook, on the road. The Cheesemakers currently have a narrow lead in the league standings, and have been the only team to beat Scappoose in the last six games, a 69-62 loss on Jan. 21.

The strategy moving forward is a simple one: Tufts has had his team look at a few sets the Cheesemakers use, and will attempt to throw off their offensive rhythm. A strong post presence made life difficult for Scappoose, in their home loss, but the addition of 6’8” center Ethan Marcantonio and better ball security should give the Indians a fighting chance.

“They're good,” said Tufts on Wednesday. “All five guys can shoot. Their five starters are all really good basketball players, so we've got to play well on the road.”

Tufts motioned to his players, who were warming up before practice.

“These guys aren't intimidated by anything,” he said proudly. “A big crowd in Tillamook on Friday, and we'll thrive in that situation. We're looking forward to it.”

Weather note: Should snow force Scappoose High School to close on Friday, Feb. 7, the games with Tillamook will be pushed to Monday.

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