ELMIRA — Philomath High turned what had been a close game with Sweet Home into a blowout in a matter of minutes.
The Warriors can credit their defense for that.
Sweet Home had trouble handling Philomath’s pressure and traps late in the game, and the Warriors ran away with a 59-44 win at Elmira’s holiday boys basketball tournament.
Philomath (4-4) turned 14 second-half turnovers by Sweet Home (5-5) into numerous easy transition baskets Friday afternoon, outscoring the Huskies 31-12 over the last 12-plus minutes after Sweet Home held a 32-28 lead.
“We pride ourselves on defense. That’s how we get on to offense. We use our defense to score,” said Philomath point guard Nolan Jackson, who had a game-high 22 points. “It took us until about the fourth quarter, really, to kick it into gear.”
Tyler Pfarrer added nine points and Marshall Brattain eight for Philomath, which has won three of four after a 1-3 start.
Keegan Holly had 12 points, Andrew Freitag nine and Casey Tow eight for Sweet Home, which had a two-game winning streak snapped.
Both teams’ coaches said it’s challenging to get players ready for holiday-season games, particularly ones that start at 12:30 p.m. as Friday’s did.
Philomath was coming off a 67-50 loss to Mountain View late Thursday afternoon. In a fast-paced effort, Sweet Home defeated Madras 90-76 in another tournament game Thursday night.
“I think our guys did a good job of not being too tired early on, but then I thought it caught up with us,” Huskies coach Drew Emmert said. “Then we weren’t fundamental and making good passes.”
Sweet Home finished with 24 turnovers and Philomath 14.
Calvin Snuggerud’s conventional three-point play in the closing seconds of the third gave the Warriors the lead for good at 35-34.
Jackson had nine points at halftime and didn’t score in the third period before getting 13 in the fourth, nearly all off the defense of him and his teammates.
He scored the first four points of the final period to cap an 11-2 run. Pfarrer had four points in a 9-0 run later in the quarter that stretched Philomath’s lead to 12.
The Warriors forced nine Husky errors in the fourth quarter.
“That’s kind of what we want to see, is our defense translating into offense,” Philomath coach Blake Ecker said. “We came out flat, not excited, not much energy or effort, the way we’re supposed to do. Something clicked a little bit in the fourth quarter — ‘OK, we’re going to get some steals’ — and it kind of steamrolled.”
Holly and his teammates found holes in the Philomath defense early on, jumping out to a 12-6 lead after one quarter.
A Hayden Nichol steal resulting in a Holly layin finished a 6-0 run that put Sweet Home up eight.
Jackson and Holly traded 3-pointers before the Warriors ran off nine straight points to take their first lead. Brattain’s three-point play gave Philomath a 24-23 advantage.
Sweet Home scored the final four points of the half to lead 27-24 at the break.
A Nichols three-point play and Nathan Virtue’s offensive rebound and basket gave the Huskies a four-point advantage before Philomath’s pressure got to the Huskies.
Philomath doesn’t play again until the first week of January, hosting Marshfield and Gladstone. The Warriors go to Scappoose and Tillamook for two more nonleague games before opening Oregon West Conference play Jan. 16 at Stayton.
Sweet Home is off until next Wednesday, when it opens three games at the Stayton tournament playing Woodburn. The Huskies go to Crook County on Jan. 5 and begin their Sky-Em League schedule Jan. 12 hosting Sutherlin.
Emmert, in his third year as head coach, likes what he’s seen overall from his team this season.
“We’re starting out stronger than we have and we have a lot more pieces this year,” he said. “We’re all on the same page and starting to see everything that we put in start to come together.”