NORTH BEND — The De La Salle North Catholic Knights feel like they have something to prove.
After losing four starters from last year’s runner-up squad, and without a transcendent scorer, the Knights have started to rely on a balanced offensive attack. Using said strategy, No. 7 De La Salle upset the No. 2 Amity Warriors 67-60 Thursday night at North Bend.
“We’re used to being the underdog,” De La Salle coach James Broadus II said. “It’s us against the world, that’s sort of the mentality we’ve created. I’m excited they played well enough to advance. Survive and advance.”
The upset isn’t anything new for De La Salle. It’s been an underdog all season with its youthful roster and has already proven some wrong by qualifying at all for the state tournament this week.
Thursday’s result was just a continuation of the Knights’ Cinderella attempt.
“It feels good because everybody was doubting my team, saying they don’t think we’ll win, they don’t think that we deserve to be here," senior Marquis Guntle said. "They think other teams should be here instead of us. We just came in every game, played our hardest, beat every team, and now everyone should notice that we’re serious and we’re down for business and stop underestimating us.”
De La Salle enters a given game unsure itself of who is going to lead the team in scoring. In De La Salle’s 26 games, the Knights have had eight different players lead them in scoring.
It’s all based on matchups and who has the hot hand. Thursday, Guntle was that. The senior was deadly from either elbow on pull-up jumpers. Amity tried to put lanky defender Clint Hatch on him, but Guntle didn’t care. He kept hitting those jumpers and scored 18 points on 7 of 18 shooting. Kadeem Nelson added 14 for the Knights and Kadren Addy had 12.
“We were able to see that early in the game we were able to get to the basket,” Broadus said. “We were able to use Marquis Guntle to get to the basket and just sort of ride the hot hand.
“We don’t know who that guy is gonna be either. We just have to pay attention and just ride what’s working.”
De La Salle trailed twice briefly in the first quarter when Devin McShane hit a pair of free throws for a 6-4 lead and Kodiak Yaeger hit a layup for an 8-7 Amity lead. Yaeger got a putback to go shortly thereafter for a 10-7 Amity lead. It was the biggest Warrior lead of the night. McShane led Amity with 20 points. Dylan Stearns added 12.
Both times Amity took the lead De La Salle came right back with baskets of its own.
Kadren Addy hit a 3 to push De La Salle ahead after McShane’s free throws, then Kadeem Nelson tied the score at 10 with a 3 of his own.
De La Salle closed the first quarter on a 10-5 run for a five-point lead at the quarter break and never looked back. Outside of the fourth quarter, which Amity won 22-21, De La Salle owned each quarter, extending its lead steadily.
Amity could never make enough baskets to keep pace. The Warriors shot just 34 percent (13-53) from the floor and were just 5 of 23 from 3-point range. The most frustrating stat for Warriors coach Scott Nelson was free throws, where Amity turned in a paltry 19 of 33. McShane was 3-for-7 from the free throw line as a 90-percent free throw shooter, representing a microcosm of Amity’s shooting struggles.
“We rushed a few and we actually got pretty good shots, we just couldn’t get any to fall,” Nelson said. “Give De La Salle a lot of credit, they pressured and take you out of your offense you want to run.
“There’s no pressure on free throws.”
Amity managed to cut the De La Salle lead down to six with a less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter at 61-55 after a pair of foul shots from Dylan Stearns, but Addy made both his double-bonus free throws and Amity was never as close again.
As exciting as the win was for De La Salle, the loss was equally frustrating for Amity. In its fourth straight appearance at the Class 3A state tournament here, Amity has yet to win a game in those four trips, despite favorable seeds in each tournament.
Though understandably disappointed, Nelson said he won't allow one loss to define his team or this season.
“One loss, although it hurts — everybody has expectations,” Nelson said. “We really felt if we could get past this game here, we match up pretty good against everybody else in the tournament. These guys are just really quick and we couldn’t box ‘em out.”
De La Salle gets No. 5 Harrisburg at Marshfield in the semifinals. That game will tip at 8:15 p.m. Friday night. Amity gets Blanchet Catholic in the consolation semis. That game will tip at 10:45 a.m. Friday morning.