Mac boys outhustled by Titans

By ROCKNE ROLL

Of the News-Register

Last time McMinnville tangled with the West Salem Titans, the Grizzlies came home with a 16-point win.

Tuesday night’s Class 6A Greater Valley Conference rematch flipped the formula.

“It just did not seem like we made them work super hard. They played way better than last time,” McMinnville head coach Willie Graham recalled.

Thus, the Titans handed their hosts a 56-42 loss at The Furnace on Tuesday. The loss, McMinnville’s second in a row, plopped them into a tie for third place in the GVC with two games left in the regular season.

After stumbling out of the gate, McMinnville kept pace through the first thanks to a heroic effort from point guard Tanner Autencio, who scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the first frame, propelling the Grizzlies to a two point lead after the first. McMinnville expanded the margin to as much as seven in the second quarter before some of their execution struggles caught up with them.

“We had a seven-point lead with a minute and a half to go,” Graham said of the second. “It was a frustrating night. They just did a lot better job than we did. They wanted it more. They made some great hustle plays.”

Those frustrations were soon to be compounded as Mac scored four points in the third.

“They hit some more shots in the second half,” Graham recalled. “It just did not seem like we made them work super hard. They played way better than last time. They were way more aggressive then us, especially rebounding. They killed us on the boards. They got tons of points off the rebounds they got.”

The Grizzlies were on the sour end of a 36-23 rebounding differential, with 13 of West Salem’s boards coming at the offensive end. McMinnville also coughed up 14 turnovers and shot a combined 33 percent from the field.

Autencio recorded five assists on the evening. Joey Chapman scored nine for the Grizzlies and Wyatt Smith added five. Matthew Long dished out four assists and got three steals, but left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. His status for Friday night’s game against first-place South Salem was uncertain on Tuesday.

McMinnville (14-8, 9-5 GVC) will close out their regular season on Friday with a road game against the Saxons followed by a Tuesday visit from Sprague for Senior Night. The Olympians are tied for the worst record in the GVC.

Despite the loss, the Grizzlies are locked into a spot in the OSAA 6A State Championship bracket. For Graham, the next week is about getting his squad back on track in preparation for a first-round road game.

“The bigger thing is ‘Can we get over it and improve? Can we make that last push through the end of the season?’” he said. “We had been getting better and better, and we’ve had a little dip in the last week and a half.”

The Grizzlies tip off at South Salem High tonight at 7:15 p.m.

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