COOS BAY — There is more than a little frustration in the Southwestern Oregon Community College men’s basketball team lately.
The tough recent stretch the Lakers have withstood continued Saturday, with Mount Hood holding on for an 83-77 win at Prosper Hall. Kahlon Whitley led all scorers with 29 points and Moses Miller had 23 for the Lakers.
“Any time you’re involved in a tough run like this, then some frustration’s gonna happen,” SWOCC coach Trevor Hoppe said. “They’re playing their butts off and we gotta get the results. And that’s hard. There’s definitely some emotions about, ‘Hey man, we gotta keep going through this.’ It’s definitely frustrating. Everybody in that room — coaches, players — it’s just a matter of sticking together and staying positive.”
If it wasn’t for SWOCC spotting the Saints an early 10-point lead Saturday, the result may have been entirely different.
Mount Hood jumped to an early 10-0 lead with a 3-pointers from AJ Farmer and Whitley, and four points from Devin McShane.
From that point in the game, SWOCC actually outscored Mt. Hood, but the Lakers had just two leads and they were both brief and in the second half.
“We’ve done that a few times, where we give a little lead at the beginning and then we play ‘em even from that point on, if not even better,” Hoppe said. “So we can do it, we just gotta come off to a better start and know that we can do it.”
Mount Hood led by as many as 17 in the first half, building a 26-9 advantage after a Vlad Katin basket with 9:33 on the clock in the first half.
SWOCC started to chip away at the lead with athletic dribble drives from Keenan Reynolds and a 3-pointer from Chase Saviors. Two Koby Etzwiler free throws cut the lead in half at 32-25 with just more than five minutes to go in the first half, but Mount Hood kept SWOCC at arm’s length with a 3-pointer from Marcus Greer, among other things.
SWOCC went into halftime down 10 at 46-36, making that initial 10-0 Saints run massively important.
“We’re very frustrated,” SWOCC's Jake Gomez said. “It just reflects back to how we practice and stuff. We just gotta learn how to take the hits and keep going.”
Powered by six Gomez offensive rebounds and a hot Miller hand, the Lakers closed in during the second half.
SWOCC embarked on a 16-5 run to start the second half, finally taking its first lead at the 13:04 mark on a Miller 3. The run included a 3-pointer from Gomez, who is returning from an injury after missing two weeks.
The freshman forward Canoga Park, Calif., was excited to return after missing so much time.
“It feels really good ‘cause being injured sucks,” Gomez said. “It sucks. But not only that, missing two weeks you get out of shape. You gotta work yourself back into a rhythm. It was good getting all those boards. I had a lot of energy so it felt good.”
SWOCC and Mount Hood traded the lead, with a pair of Josh Hall free throws (he made 10 on the day) and a pair of them from Miller.
But Mount Hood took control after that.
The Saints used a 6-0 run to take a 59-54 lead and SWOCC never got closer than one after Tanner Lewis made his only basket of the game to make it 59-58 with 8:49 to go.
Reynolds fouled out a minute earlier, taking away a dynamic scorer/rebounder/defender, then Ransford Ntow Jr. fouled out three minutes later, ridding SWOCC of another starter.
“That’s always hard,” Hoppe said of the foul outs. “Both of them are such key guys. We weren’t gonna save ‘em. We were gonna put ‘em back out there and see what happens.”
SWOCC kept pace best it could, but Whitley’s clever stepback jumpers and free throws from Hall down the stretch were too much to overcome.
“It’s just not only basketball lessons but life lesson of, ‘Okay, how are we gonna get through a little adversity,’” Hoppe said. “You stick together as a team, you keep going and you stay positive with each other. And we’re gonna do it.”
SWOCC visits Lane on Wendesday for a 7:30 p.m. tip.