Determination pays off for varsity boys

By ADAM LAPIERRE

News staff writer

February 4, 2006

Packed stands of Eagle and Eagle-Indian fans were rocked to their feet Wednesday night in by far the most exciting finish of the season for the Hood River Valley varsity boys’ basketball team. After trailing for much of the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ chance to defeat The Dalles-Wahtonka (TDW) looked to dwindle away as they were down by five points with final minute ticking away on the clock.

And in that final minute senior Mark Oppenheimer made three clutch three-pointers in a row, including one with only two seconds left, to tie the game and take it into overtime.

Tim Chance and Juan Zuniga took drives to the hoop for two points apiece in the extra minutes. With TDW matching point for point, Jon Ing scored his first points of the game, hitting four free-throws in a row to give the Eagles a three-point lead with 17 seconds left. TDW managed a two at the buzzer and the gym exploded as the home team took the 50-49 victory.

“It was very exciting,” Oppenheimer said after the game. “I think that was a position everyone would like to be in. I’m just lucky to have stepped up and made the shots … But I only helped with the win. It took everyone on the team and I’m just glad I could help.”

The win gives the Eagles reprisal for the second time in as many games, as they lost at TDW by ten points earlier this season. Last Friday the boys defeated the Bend Bears after losing to them at Bend in December.

Leading the Eagles in scoring was Juan Zuniga with 15 points. Oppenheimer was close behind with 14 points, 12 of which were from threes. Tim Chance had 10 points and seven rebounds.

“I thought we played sluggish for most of the game,” said Coach Phil Vesel. “We were unable to knock down our outside shots. But we kept grinding and staying in the game and we did just enough to get the win … I think it was a great learning experience for the boys because it’s important for them to know that in tight situations like that we can come away with the win. We also learned that if we’re not ready to go at the beginning of the game, it’s hard to flip the switch and get going.”

The Eagles put in their best clutch-performance of the season. Until Oppenheimer’s nine clutch points, they went 1 for 15 from three point range and, until Ing’s four free-throws, they were 60 percent from the charity stripe. They shined defensively as well, coming up with key stops when it really mattered.

“They stayed focused, continued to do the right things and came out of the timeouts with good execution,” said Vesel.

The best case of executing after a timeout was Oppenheimer’s final three. With only seconds left, the Eagles had a timeout with possession. Vesel called a screen-the-screener play and, with textbook execution, Oppenheimer screened Zuniga, then took a screen himself, giving him a wide open jumper from the outside.

“We just never gave up,” Oppenheimer said. “We kept battling and we always thought there was a chance so we played without fear.”

The boys go on the road today to Crook County High School and on Thursday of next week to Pendleton. They return home Feb. 13 to take on Mountain View High School — varsity will start at 6 p.m.

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