COOS BAY — With a spot in the Class 4A Elite 8 Showcase on the line, Junction City’s boys basketball team kept its composure and held off host Marshfield 48-39 Thursday at the Pirate Palace.
The Tigers clinched the Sky-Em League title and their spot in the basketball postseason, while Marshfield’s fortunes now lie with the Class 4A selection committee, needing that group to award the Pirates one of the two at-large berths available to go with the six league champions.
“We’ve made a good case to slip in there as an at-large team and if we do, I hope we make some noise,” Marshfield coach Casey McCord said.
Junction City doesn’t need to worry about that after the Tigers finished the league season 8-2, a game in front of the Pirates. The Tigers know they are playing in the quarterfinals Tuesday and Marshfield hopes to learn Sunday it will be, too.
The Tigers have their composure to thank for it. They struggled early to break through against Marshfield’s defense and spent most of the first quarter with just three points before hitting a couple of late shots.
Marshfield led 11-8 after eight minutes and stretched the lead early in the second before Junction City began finding ways to get the ball to Ben Heitz. The senior scored the Tigers’ last 10 points of the first half as Junction City moved in front 22-19 and the Tigers scored the first eight of the third quarter to go up by double digits.
Junction City coach Craig Rothenberger said it was good to see his team stay poised after the Tigers lost two of their previous three games, including a home setback to Siuslaw Tuesday that had enabled Marshfield to pull even in the league standings.
“This group has been able to do what they do,” he said of the Tigers’ focus. “Tuesday, we lost our composure and we learned from that.
“We played pretty darn well tonight. I thought (Marshfield) did, too.”
Once the Tigers got up by more than 10 points, Marshfield was battling from behind. The Pirates were able to cut into the lead, but the Tigers responded, still leading 37-26 heading to the fourth quarter.
The Pirates started getting the ball inside to Pierce Davidson, who had six straight to open the quarter as Marshfield pulled within five points.
Junction City, meanwhile, didn’t score for more than six minutes, including missing two straight front ends of one-and-one free throw opportunities. But Marshfield couldn’t pull any closer.
The Tigers finally got two free throws by Court Knabe with 1:49 to go. Knabe hit four more and teammates added enough points to keep the Tigers in front as Marshfield continued to struggle to score.
“We didn’t hit shots — that’s the bottom line,” McCord said.
The Pirates had excelled from outside during a six-game win streak that put them in position to play for the league title, but only hit two 3-pointers Thursday — one in the opening minutes by Monty Swinson and another in the closing minutes by Noah Niblett.
“We put ourselves behind the 8-ball against a really disciplined team and they made us pay,” McCord said.
Davidson finished with 15 points to lead Marshfield and Mason Ainsworth added 12, but the sharpshooter struggled from outside all game.
The Pirates played solid defense most of the game, and rebounded pretty well, too.
“It’s definitely a gut-wrenching loss,” McCord said. “I think we thought we had every chance to win and we just didn’t get it done.”
The Pirates finished the regular season 10-4, with road losses to Junction City, Siuslaw and in overtime at Class 5A Churchill.
McCord scheduled practice for Friday afternoon with the hopes the team would learn over the weekend that it still is in the running next week. They were ranked sixth last week by the Class 4A selection committee, and if that group still views them favorably, they have a good chance to reach the showcase.
Junction City, which finished the regular season 12-2, got 15 points each by Knabe and Heitz.