NORTH BEND — Chris Emerson was calm in the huddle drawing up a play.
His North Bend Bulldogs needed to go the length of the floor in 1.5 seconds to break a 45-45 tie with the visiting Sutherlin Bulldogs and avoid overtime. His best scorer and ball handler, Jayden Frank, was on the bench with five fouls.
So he had Kaleb Messner heave one 85 feet to Garrison Mateski, who flipped over his shoulder to Kameron Harmon, who caught the tip and beat the buzzer with a layup to give North Bend an emotional 47-45 win heading into league play.
“Emotions are high right now,” North Bend junior Jake Simmons said. “We harassed (Harmon). It was great. Everyone has a role on this team.”
“It was what we drew up and all three pieces had to work, all five pieces, rather,” Emerson said. “All three had to work. Pass had to be there. Secondary guy had to be there. Fortunately they only had one guy back.”
Things looked a bit dicey in that last minute. Frank picked up his fourth foul with nearly four minutes left in the third quarter and had to sit, then he picked up his disqualifying fifth with 5:40 remaining in the game. At that point, he had 15 of North Bend’s 35 points with the home team leading 35-32.
After Frank went to the bench, Sutherlin pulled in front of North Bend 47-43 with a minute left. The blue-clad Bulldogs had a chance to take the lead again when Mason Gill took the foul line for two shots with 4.3 seconds left. He missed the first, prompting a timeout from Emerson, then missed the second. North Bend rebounded and managed to get a timeout with 1.5 left, setting up the miracle.
Without Frank, North Bend’s offense wasn’t as crisp. His decisiveness and fearlessness with the ball are difficult to defend, but he’s skilled enough that he can play that way. North Bend had to rely on Simmons, Randy Vader and freshman point guard Brady Messner down the stretch, and the trio played admirably in Frank’s absence.
Vader made all of his second-half shots — including a pair of runners in the last minute to tie the score — and finished with 14 points. Simmons finished with 12 points and provided energy and enthusiasm on both ends of the floor to help lift North Bend while Sutherlin loomed.
“Me and Randy got together and said, ‘We need to get going, to step up our game,’” Simmons said. “So we did.”
They needed to. Gill, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, was Sutherlin’s chief offensive option down the stretch, catching at the high post in front of his bench and driving the baseline for an easy layup almost every time. He finished with a game-high 16 points, with 14 of those coming in the second half as Sutherlin rallied.
North Bend closes nonleague play with a 6-7 record and renewed momentum after losing to a pair of top opponents in Henley and Mazama, in the SkyWest Crossover. North Bend heads to Far West League play at South Umpqua on Friday on an emotional high.
“We needed this, for sure,” Simmons said.