COOS BAY — In its fourth straight year, the Amity boys basketball team finally won a game at the Class 3A state tournament.
Despite having high seeds each year, Amity has been snake-bitten here. The Warriors have lost in overtimes, to eventual champions and have been upset. Friday morning, the Warriors held off a pesky Blanchet squad for a 59-57 win.
“It’s great. I mean, we’ve been here and we’ve battled and battled,” Amity senior Devin McShane said. “I don’t know, it’s an amazing feeling to be here and finally get a win in my senior, after four years.”
Dylan Stearns led Amity with 20 points and Devin McShane added 14. Mike Bashaw of Blanchet led all scorers with 25 and RJ Veliz had 22.
Amity knew the offensive firepower of Veliz and aimed to contain him. Bashaw ended up with a good day with Amity’s defensive attention focused on the sophomore point guard.
Bashaw hit a half-court heave at the halftime buzzer to give Blanchet a five-point lead at the break, and also hit a 3 with eight seconds left to cut Amity’s lead to one.
After Jaycen Nelson hit a free throw to give Amity a two-point lead at 59-57, Amity called timeout to discuss its defensive options. The Warriors had six team fouls, meaning the next infraction would give Blanchet free throws. Veliz got the inbound and flew down the court, getting a runner from the block as time expired. It rolled out, giving Amity its tense first win at state in four years.
“We drew that up and he got the ball to the basket, had a good shot, had a good look and it didn’t fall,” Blanchet coach Scott Cantonwine said. “We wanted to play another four minutes in the Pirate Palace. But that wasn’t meant to be.”
The combined 47 points from the sophomore Veliz and junior Bashaw represents reason for excitement headed to the future.
With Blanchet in a zone defense for much of the morning, Amity ran a classic zone offense that featured a baseline runner. That runner was Stearns, who, despite being 3-of-11 from 3-point range, was a consistent threat to score all game.
“We changed up our offense to go to what we call a central with the baseline runner,” Nelson said. “That was a good move by our assistants. They said we should try and and we did and got some good looks right away.”
But that wasn’t the only adjustment Amity made. Nelson also challenged his players in the halftime locker room. McShane said he yelled at them “pretty good.” The halftime speech galvanized the Warriors, who, with their five starting seniors, weren’t about to have their season ended prematurely for the fourth straight year.
Amity’s improved physicality was apparent in the second half. The fouls cut down and the flow improved. Amity startec beating Blanchet to loose balls and rebounds.
“We didn’t want to go out this way,” McShane said. “We wanted to keep playing.”
The win for Amity takes the proverbial monkey off the Warriors’ back.
McShane gave a relieved smile when talking about finally getting a win, and Nelson was equally soothed with the win. He said he never talked about past results, instead leaving the past to the past.
Amity won despite shooting worse than Blanchet (46 percent to 33 percent) and making fewer shots (19-17). However, Blanchet committed three more turnovers than Amity in the loss, and Amity turned those 11 turnovers into 11 points.
“I just want to give one more shoutout to those seniors who stepped up,” Nelson said. “Brandon Wilson doing his part, and Dylan and Devin, and Deryk (Stearns) and Clint (Hatch). That’s how we played all year.”
The Warriors advance to the fourth-place game, where they will face No. 4 Salem Academy at 9:45 a.m. Saturday morning at Marshfield.