Basketball: Sherwood boys tip Gresham in OT thriller
The ball spun high into the air and every eyeball in the gym followed its arc, as it clipped the back of the rim and hung high over the hoop as the horn sounded.
Where it landed would decide the fate of two basketball teams.
"I saw it hanging up there, and I thought it was going to fall through," Sherwood coach Rahim Tufts said.
"I was looking straight at it, and the shot was right on target. I started walking the other way," Gresham coach Erik Lyslo said.
But instead of trickling through the net, gravity brought the ball down and it grazed the front of the rim and fell to the floor.
The miss sent the game into overtime where Sherwood would pounce early to claim a 65-64 win over Gresham in a Class 6A boys basketball first-round state playoff game played March 4 at Sherwood High School.
With the win, its 13th straight, Sherwood, the Pacific Conference champion, and the No. 14 in the final OSAA power rankings, improved to 19-6 on the season. The Bowmen also advance to the second round of the state playoffs, where they'll face Jefferson in a game set to start at 7 p.m. Saturday at Jefferson High School.
Gresham, the No. 4 team out of the Mt. Hood Conference, and the No. 19 team in the power rankings, finished its season with a final record of 16-9.
But the Gophers didn't let their season end without a fight.
Gresham battled back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game with 35 seconds left in the contest, when Elijah Munyan faked a shot from the free-throw area, took a dribble inside and converted a shot in the paint.
"We knew we had to bring some pressure and change the pace of the game," Lyslo said. "We created some turnovers and got ourselves back in the game."
Sherwood lost the ball out of bounds moments later, setting up Gresham for a shot at the win. The Gophers came out and spread the floor, stretching the key open for a potential winning drive. Instead, Sherwood senior post Blake Jensen poked the ball loose and took a step the other way only to have Gresham rookie Esyah Pippa-White dive at him to get the ball back on the center-court logo.
The Gophers called timeout to set up a final play with 3.9 seconds left. It was designed to go to either Pippa-White in the left corner or Ethan Abrahamson on the other side of the floor.
Pippa-White got the chance, launching the clean 3 toward the hoop that came up inches from ripping the net.
Gresham won the overtime tip, but was denied at the rim by Jensen, keeping the score frozen.
"Coach has been preaching to stay straight up all year, and I just came over with the help side defense," Jensen said.
The Gophers next trip ended in the same way, this time with Sherwood sophomore Baydon Kullowatz rushing in from the 3-point line to swat away another attempt in close.
"The coaches were challenging us to get some stops, and I put my body on the line to do that," Kullowatz said.
At the other end, Sherwood junior guard Asher Krauel drew a series of fouls on the perimeter, earning three straight trips to the free-throw line. He knocked down all six foul shots to put the Bowmen up 59-53.
"That helped build a little confidence," Krauel said. "You do what it takes to survive and advance."
Gresham closed it back down to a two-point game on a Munyan layup followed by a pair of Abrahamson free throws.
The Gophers put on a full-court defense that had Sherwood in trouble, forcing Tufts to scream for a timeout two ticks away from a 10-second violation. The Bowmen retained possession, and Kullowatz would go 3 for 4 at the stripe over the next minute to put the Bowmen back up 62-57 with 0:35 left.
Gresham made one final push when Pippa-White was fouled on a 3-point try. The shot clipped the back rim and came out, but he sank 2 of 3 at the line to make it a one-possession game with 14.2 seconds left.
Desperate to get the ball back, the Gophers slapped a double team on Sherwood senior point guard Jamison Guerra, but he stepped through the trap and sent a pass across the floor to junior teammate Caden Davis, who zipped down the sideline before being fouled.
"I didn't do a great job taking care of the ball at the end of regulation, but we preach pivoting against pressure and that came in handy. I was able to get the ball out of my hands and to a teammate," Guerra said.
Two misses at the free-throw line gave the Gophers hope, but it was quickly dashed when Davis tracked down his own rebound. Gresham was forced to foul again.
This time Guerra stepped to the stripe. He missed his first try, but made the second to secure the victory.
Gresham called timeout with 3.6 seconds left, but down four, the Gophers needed to muster some magic. Tufts had his players simply stand in a group in front of the scorer's table and watch as Munyan rattled home a 3. The clock cleared the net and the final second ticked away, sparking a court-storming celebration.
"We knew they had no timeouts left, so the clock doesn't stop," Tufts said. "We just had to stay out of any position for a potential foul."
The teams traded the lead six times during the early stages of play before Sherwood cycled passes to all corners of the floor setting up Krauel for an open 3-pointer and the first double-digit lead of the night late in the second quarter.
The Bowmen remained up 39-29 late in the third period after Kullowatz gave a pump fake near the arc and drove the baseline for a layup.
Abrahamson picked off a pass and started down the sideline before putting on the brakes and searching out a spot on the top of the arc for a 3-pointer. He tried another deep ball on the team's next trip only to watch it click off the back of the rim. He rushed forward, grabbed the miss and put it off the glass to pull the Gophers within 39-34.
"Every time we'd open up the lead, they would come back with a run — that's the nature of the playoffs," Tufts said.
Sherwood stretched the lead out once more when Guerra fired a cross-court pass over the top of the defense for Davis, who faked a 3, sidestepped his defender and buried a 15-footer. On the next trip, Guerra drove the lane and drew contact with Gresham center Ethan Evans before powering the ball over the front of the rim.
The spurt ended with Guerra swiping a steal from Munyan, then zipping down the sideline in front of Lyslo, who was swinging his arm imploring his troops to rally back on defense.
It was too late.
Guerra approached halfcourt and whipped a pass to the far corner, setting Davis up to swish a 3-pointer, which gave the Bowmen their biggest lead at 49-37 approaching five minutes to play.
Davis led a balanced Sherwood scoring attack in the win with 16 points. Krauel scored 13, Kullowatz added 12, Jensen scored eight and Guerra had six.
Munyan paced Gresham with 21.
Jefferson, the No. 1 team out of the Portland Interscholastic League, and the No. 3 team in the power rankings, brings an overall record of 22-4 into Saturday's second-round contest.
The winner of Saturday's game at Jefferson will advance to the Class 6A state tournament, which starts March 12 at the University of Portland's Chiles Center.
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