Falling by three points on the road against Stayton to open Oregon West Conference play back in mid-January, the Philomath High School boys basketball team knew it needed to come up with a new strategy to knock off the Eagles in Friday's rematch.
"Playing them the first time, we found out what they try to do with all their big guys, so we just really focused on that," said senior Nolan Jackson, who scored 24 points in Philomath's 67-53 victory. "That guard hit a couple of 3s so then we started adjusting to him later in the game, but early in the game, we focused mainly on stopping the big guys."
Coach Blake Ecker believed that if he moved Jackson to point guard, the Warriors could neutralize Stayton's tall post players. With 6-foot-8 Kaleb Anundi and 6-7 Riley Nichol overplaying, Jackson was able to take advantage of his quickness and expand the attack.
"It was very, very effective to start the ballgame off," Ecker said. "We kinda got out of it a little bit and we probably should've done it a little bit more in the second half, but some other things were also working well. But putting him at the point helped a lot to set the momentum, set the tone."
Among those other things that were working well was senior Tyler Pfarrer, who buried four 3-pointers and with another basket and 5 of 6 free throws, finished with 19 points.
'We ran him off the baseline screens a couple times and he did a great job of getting himself open with some hesitation moves coming off and feeling confident and going up and shooting the ball," Ecker said. "We believe in him and he's starting to believe in himself a little bit."
Pfarrer, in his second season as a starter, was definitely in the zone.
"We watched film and knew their offense a little bit more and knew when they cut and everything, so we were set denying the cutters," Pfarrer said. "We had a lot more energy than before on defense. Last game when we first played them, we were just too relaxed and today we had a lot of energy and the crowd helped a lot."
The Warriors had a well-balanced scoring attack with a half-dozen players hitting baskets in the first half to build a 29-23 lead. Philomath went into the locker room at halftime on a high when Pfarrer hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
What made the play especially exciting was officials had originally awarded possession of the ball to Stayton and it appeared the Eagles, down by three, would have a chance to tie the score. But after a quick huddle, it was determined Philomath should have the ball. Pfarrer took the throw-in well above the top of the key and buried the shot.
In the second half, Stayton fought back to within 31-30 on a 3-pointer but that was as close as the Eagles would get. The Warriors responded with a 13-0 run that started off with another Pfarrer trey.
Jackson followed with back-to-back baskets, Pfarrer scored inside and Kenan Conner hit on a put-back for a 42-30 lead. Jackson completed the run by scoring after a Stayton turnover.
The Eagles got back to within six a few times in the fourth but Philomath came up with needed counterattacks when needed. Over the final 3:03, the Warriors made 13 of 16 free throws to put it away.
Philomath's defense caused problems all evening with Stayton appearing out of sorts on several possessions. At least three passes sailed high over everyone and a few others bounced harmlessly out of bounds with nobody on the receiving end.
"We mixed it up a little bit from man to some zone there, especially in the second half and they did get confused," Ecker said. "They threw it over the top of people and that's kinda what that defense does, it hurries people up and makes them make poor decisions. But then again, sometimes it gives up some easy looks, too. You're gambling, flying around trying to hurry up the game and make young men make tough decisions quickly."
Jackson seemed especially fired up on the court, even interacting with the student section when Stayton called timeout following the 13-0 run in the third.
"That's what our defense does when we fly around and are energetic like that," Jackson said. "That's what I've been saying all season, that's the main point of our game — just playing defense and getting out and running and scoring with the ball."
Jackson scored his 24 points on nine field goals and 6 of 10 free throws. Along with Jackson and Pfarrer, Conner also hit double figures with 10 points on four baskets and 2 of 4 free throws. As a team, PHS had five 3-pointers with the four by Pfarrer and the other by freshman Michael Lundy.
Anundi finished with 17 points and Nichol had 13 for the Eagles (10-10, 5-1).
"We're playing up-tempo and we've got Newport coming in," said Jackson, who has a 19.8-point scoring average in Oregon West games. "I think it's going to be a lot different outcome than when we played up at their place."
Indeed, the team's focus now transitions to the Cubs. The two teams are tied for second place and Newport beat Philomath, 70-47, in a Jan. 19 game on the coast.
"They got us by almost 30 at their place, they shot the heck out of it," Ecker said. "I think I tried to overthink myself a little bit in that game at points. They've lost two as well (in league) so it's going to be a battle right there."
Pfarrer said the team continues to approve as players learn more about each others' tendencies.
"We've been working harder in practice and playing harder as a team lately," Pfarrer said. "We weren't used to playing with each other in the beginning. ... We've just got to beat Newport and hopefully Newport will beat Stayton."
Philomath (11-7, 4-2) gets a needed break with no Tuesday game. Like most students on campus, the team has been battling illness. This past Wednesday, only three players were well enough to practice.
Friday's game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. start. in the PHS gym.
Philomath 67, Stayton 53
Friday at Philomath
STAYTON (10-10, 5-1) 11 12 14 16 — 53
PHILOMATH (11-7, 4-2) 14 15 16 22 — 67
Stayton: Kaleb Anundi 5 7-12 17, Riley Nichol 5 0-0 13, Jordan Butler 2 5-8 11, Jerry Daniels 4 1-2 9, Nathan Hendricks 1 0-0 3, Logan Classen 0 0-0 0, Michael Jenkins 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 13-22 53.
Philomath: Nolan Jackson 9 6-10 24, Tyler Pfarrer 5 5-6 19, Kenan Conner 4 2-4 10, Marshall Brattain 2 2-2 6, Calvin Snuggerud 2 0-0 4, Michael Lundy 1 0-0 3, Toby Stueve 0 1-2 1, Matt Hamilton 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 16-24 67.
Philomath 64, Stayton 45
Friday at Philomath
STAYTON 13 6 9 17 — 45
PHILOMATH 25 16 15 8 — 64
PHS scoring: Michael Lundy 19, Dylan Bennett 15, Ben Reams 8, Dakota Kantor 6, Devan Hunsaker 5, Brody Hiner 4, Daniel Lundy 3, Duane Hellesto 2, Brandn Vogler 2, Dylan Edwards 0, Mason Howard 0, Jaden Williams 0.
Team notes: Philomath's JV upped its record to 15-1 on the season. ... Michael Lundy scored 19 points in only two quarters of game action on nine field goals, one of those a 3-pointer. ... Dylan Bennett scored 15 on five baskets and 5 of 6 free throws. Bennett scored 10 alone in the first quarter. ... The Warriors scored 41 points in the first half to break open a 22-point lead. ... The JV Warriors will play at home Friday against Newport.
Junior Varsity II
Philomath 51, Stayton 46
Friday at Philomath
STAYTON 17 3 12 14 — 46
PHILOMATH 9 14 10 18 — 51
PHS scoring: Dylan Edwards 13, Levi Knutson 11, Grant Hellesto 10, Taylor Couture 4, Mason Howard 3, JJ Rutledge 3, Pablo Gurturbay 3, Dillon Olsen 2, Chris Hamilton 2, Antoine Feld 0, Jaden Williams 0, Emmitt Tutt-Lamberty 0.
Team notes: Philomath's JVII squad improves to 10-8 with the win. ... The JVII team lost to Stayton, 64-36, in their first meeting and trailed by eight through the first quarter Friday night. ... Philomath outscored the Eagles, 42-29, over the final three quarters. ... Dylan Edwards, Levi Knutson and Grant Hellesto all hit double figures for scoring. ... Edwards scored seven of his 13 in the fourth quarter and had a trey in the third. ... Knutson hit five field goals and a free throw for 11. ... Hellesto had seven in the first half and hit a 3-pointer in the second half. ... JJ Rutledge buried a 3-pointer in the fourth. ... Philomath plays at home Friday against Newport.