COOS BAY — For the second straight year, the De La Salle North Catholic Knights boys basketball team will play for a shot at the Class 3A state title.
They will square off against top seeded Dayton at 9 p.m. at Marshfield High School.
The Knights overcame poor shooting and a late fourth-quarter run from the Harrisburg Eagles to win 44-40.
“They’re just a resilient bunch,” Knights coach James Broadous II said. “They never give up and they play as hard as they can. We’ve always been taught that hard work pays off and it’s paying off for us now.”
Senior Marquis Guntle led De La Salle with 12 points and provided shut-down defense to close the game on Eagles senior Tel Jones, who led all scorers with 15 points.
Jones was held to just three points in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a really good player, so I had to stick on him and make sure he didn’t have one of his best games,” Guntle said. “He (knew) it might be his last chance to get a state (title) since they didn’t even make it to the playoffs last year, so we had to make sure we contained (him).”
De La Salle set the pace early, forcing Harrisburg to play an up-tempo turnover filled brawl.
When the smoked cleared, the two teams had turned the ball over a combined 35 times, 19 for the Eagles and 16 for the Knights.
The speed of the game seemed to frustrate Harrisburg, as the Eagles struggled to push the ball against a stifling full-court Knights press.
“A lot of the time I was just dribbling around trying not to turn the ball over,” senior point guard Hunter Knox said. “We knew that they would put intense ball pressure on us. That’s what they do.”
Eagles coach Tim Yokum praised the Knights' ability to disrupt his team’s offensive flow.
“That’s a tough team to play,” he said. “They play unconventionally. We haven’t played anybody like that.”
Broadous complimented his players on their ability to defend and contribute when needed.
“We pride ourselves on being 12 deep,” he said. "We feel like whoever gets in can continue to run, run, run and keep the press on, keep the pressure on them ... a lot of high schools don’t have 12 players they can rotate in and we want to just keep running, running, running and see if we can tire the other team out.”
After falling behind 27-19 at the half, Harrisburg came charging back in the third quarter with a 12-8 run that cut the lead to five points to start the fourth.
De La Salle led 35-31 before senior Alonzo Ranch cut the lead to two with a bruising low-post bucket with 7:40 remaining.
A half minute later, Hunter Knox tied the game at 35 following a missed George Sadi jumper.
The teams battled back and forth as the clock wound down.
Tel Jones gave Harrisburg the lead 39-37 on a fast-break dunk with just under four minutes left in regulation.
A sequence of plays then followed that involved the Knights turning the ball over, forcing a turnover of their own and a Kadeem Nelson layup to tie the game 39-39.
Joey Knox’s turnover led to Emmanuel Reiley hitting a layup, drawing a foul and converting the 1-and-1 with 1:02 to play, giving the Knights a 42-39 lead.
Jones drew a foul beyond the 3-point line but only managed to hit one of three free throws with 23 seconds remaining, cutting the lead to two at 42-40.
Reiley pulled down Jones’ last miss, drawing the foul. He converted one of his two free throws to extend the Knights lead 43-40 with 21 seconds to play.
Hunter Knox then drove the length of the court past the omnipresent full-court De La Salle press and got a clean look from beyond the arc but could not convert.
“It felt good,” he said. “I don’t think I shot a 3 all game at that point and (had) been shootin’ pretty good in warmups and it was open, so I figured ‘why not.’ It just didn’t go.”
The miss resulted in a Kadeem Nelson rebound and quick foul from Joey Knox. Nelson hit one of his two free throws to stretch the lead to 44-40 with 8 seconds remaining.
Hunter Knox attempted a desperation 3-pointer from beyond half court but was blocked by Kadeem Nelson to end the game.
Harrisburg will face Cascade Christian in the third-place matchup at 1:15 p.m. at Marshfield.
“It’s a lot of our seniors last game, so we want to go out with a bang,” Hunter Knox said.