COOS BAY — Caught up in the celebration with his Dayton teammates and their joyous fans, Zach Bernards put Saturday’s 64-55 championship-game win over De La Salle North Catholic into perspective.
“I’m so happy, I can’t describe,” Bernards said after the Pirates won their third Class 3A title in six seasons.
“It was bigger than the individual. It was bigger than the team. It was for the whole community.
“Nobody wanted us to win. We came out and did it.”
The Pirates overcame the high-paced Knights and a pro-De La Salle crowd — the Knights’ tudent section filled almost entirely with kids from other schools — with a big fourth quarter.
“I’m so proud of everyone on this team,” Bernards said. “I love this community.”
Dayton repeatedly built leads against the Knights, who had beaten them in the semifinals last year, only to see De La Salle rally.
In the third quarter, the Pirates were seemingly in control when Jalen Flowers scored inside for a 41-31 lead.
But Emmanuel Reiley and Kadeem Nelson each hit two free throws, Kadren Addy nailed a 3-pointer and Marquis Guntle scored inside and Dayton’s lead was quickly reduced to one.
Bernards scored to give the Pirates back the momentum and Dayton took a 43-41 lead to the fourth.
There the Pirates shined, scoring the first eight points and never letting the Knights closer than six down again.
Bernards described the start of the fourth as “absolutely crucial.”
“De La Salle is a tough team,” he said. “They came out and they shocked everyone (in the tournament). They should be proud of themselves.”
The Knights came up short in the championship game for the third time in four seasons.
“We talk about playing hard and giving it all you’ve got, at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for, and they did,” De La Salle coach James Broadous II said. “I’ve never been disappointed all year in how hard they played.
“Sometimes playing your hardest is not good enough and today was one of those days. All you can ask for is the best and they gave their best.”
Dayton won the same way it did all tournament, with contributions from several players and an amazing performance by Bernards.
The senior leader has been playing through various injuries, but scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the championship game.
In the second half alone, he hit his first five shots and eventually scored 20 points.
Flowers, meanwhile, was too much for the Knights inside, scoring 13 points and grabbing eight boards.
Tanner Lewis, who provided a big boost in Dayton’s semifinal win, added nine points and seven boards and Bailey West, the hero of the quarterfinal win over Horizon Christian, scored 10 and hit two of the team’s four 3-pointers.
Flowers said he was proud of the team’s effort.
“It was such a battle,” he said. “We earned this one.
“We played hard. We executed. We made our free throws and they couldn’t. It’s fundamental basketball after that.”
Dayton coach Ron Hop said the win was typical of the entire tournament for the Pirates, who won three games that either came down to the last minute or were close in the fourth quarter.
“I’m just really proud of our kids and the way we battled,” he said, explaining that at times this year Dayton looked very good in its wins.
“It didn’t look graceful and great down here,” Hop said. “It’s a grinder tournament. We’re happy to get three (wins).”
De La Salle, which graduated its best scorers from last year’s team, still edged Coquille to get back into the tournament and then got past Amity and Harrisburg, the team’s ranked No. 2 and No. 3, to get into the final.
And when the Knights were down, they repeatedly scrapped back into the game.
“This is a resilient bunch of kids,” Broadous said. “They fight back. We just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Addy provided a huge boost off the bench with the rest of the team struggling to find the basket for much of the game, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 18 points. Nelson added 13.
Addy said coming up short again was difficult.
“This is definitely not something you want to go through,” he said. “It hurts really bad.”
But with just two seniors — Guntle and Jordanos Lincoln — the future is bright.
“We’re a young team,” Addy said. “We’re going to have some real firepower coming in. We’re going to try our hardest to get back here.”