SANDY — Despite a massive 21-5 rally in the fourth quarter by Sandy, fifth-ranked Wilsonville held on to beat the Pioneers 53-48 on Tuesday, Feb. 7 to remain unbeaten in the Northwest Oregon Conference.
Colby Carson had a game-high 17 points for Sandy while Pierce Roeder added 10 points. Dakota Reber led the Wildcats with 13. John Roche and Zac Rossetti were also in double-figures for Wilsonville with 12 points apiece.
This was Sandy's fourth conference defeat by five points or less.
"We came out really flat and we didn't move the ball very well," Carson said. "We were struggling to play under control."
An early run by the Wildcats really set the tone for the first three quarters of this game. Sandy snagged a 7-4 advantage midway through the first period thanks to consecutive hoops from Carson and a 3-pointer from Brandon Remsburg, but Wilsonville responded by going on a devastating 15-0 run to take the 19-7 lead.
"The run was obviously really important," Reber said. "We knew it could have gone either way at the end, so it was big being able to get up by that much in the first half."
Reber and Rossetti hit big shots to get the Wilsonville offense going, but the real story of the first half was the defense that the Wildcats played. Sandy scored just 12 points in the half as the hard-nosed, man-to-man defense of Wilsonville gave the Pioneers fits in the first 16 minutes.
"Defense is one of our main focuses in practice," Wilsonville point guard Caleb Larsen said. "Our defensive intensity was incredible in the first half."
One of the other things that hurt the Pioneers in this one was that they were once again without a full squad. All five players that were suspended back on Jan. 26 were available for this game, but Colton Gorski was forced to miss the game with an ankle injury and Anthony Ruiz had to miss due to a concussion.
"We haven't had a full team since the last time we played Wilsonville," Sandy head coach Jason Maki said. "It's been frustrating."
Looking to get past their first half woes, Sandy would come out a lot more aggressive in the second half. Back-to-back hoops by Carson and Roeder seemed to get the Pioneers in an offensive rhythm as they would end up scoring 15 points in the third quarter.
"We talked at halftime about playing without fear," Maki said. "I felt like in the first half when we would drive the ball into the lane, we had some fear. We were too worried about what (Wilsonville) was doing rather than just playing our game…I felt like we attacked a lot better in the second half."
Despite the Pioneers playing better in the third quarter, Wilsonville still appeared to be in complete control, taking a 40-27 lead into the final period. A pair of jumpers from Roche and a put-back basket from Reber allowed the Wildcats to go on an 8-0 run to take a 48-27 lead — their largest of the game.
Just when it looked Sandy was dead-to-rights, the Pioneers tried to pull off what would have been an epic comeback.
Five quick points from Roeder and a 3-pointer from Carson cut the lead to 13. Wilsonville scored on back-to-back possessions, but that didn't deter the Pioneers rally.
A reverse layup from Wyatt Fisher, a steal and fast-break bucket by Carson and a 3-pointer by Roeder trimmed the deficit to 52-44 with 58.2 seconds left.
"We know we can hang with teams like Wilsonville, we just have to put that kind of effort together for a whole game," Fisher said. "We're kind of an unpredictable team."
With another steal and tough layup from Carson and a pair of free throws from Jaden Robinson, Sandy had all of a sudden closed the gap to four at 52-48 with 24.2 seconds left. Larsen was fouled by Roeder on the next play, but for the second straight time, Larsen missed the front end of a one-and-one to keep Sandy's hopes alive.
"We just talked about getting a score and a stop," Maki said. "I was really proud of the kids for not focusing on the scoreboard and just playing one play at a time."
On Sandy's next trip, Carson drove towards the middle and found Kaleb Hubbard open in the corner for three, but the ball didn't draw iron and Wilsonville was able to regain possession. Wilsonville's Keegan Shivers was fouled with 5.8 seconds, which is when the Pioneers comeback attempt officially ran out of time.
Wilsonville squares off with Putnam on Tuesday, Feb. 13.