Amity seniors gun for first-ever win against Dayton
Coaches often live by the mantra to take it one game at a time, and the importance of the next game is the same as the last.
But Amity boys head coach Justin Amaya knows how bad his team wants to win tonight’s game at Dayton.
“As a coach, it’s not a must win,” Amaya said. “But the seniors have never beaten Dayton in a varsity sport. They’ve talked about it every year. The seniors really want it this year.”
Amity is coming off a 70-60 victory against Harrisburg Friday, in which the Warriors needed a gutcheck at half time.
The Eagles shot a perfect six for six from 3-point range in the first half en route to a 10-point halftime lead.
At the break, Amaya said he challenged his team to play with more intensity, and singled out sophomore Lance Nelson to step up and play stronger.
His team responded.
Nelson had 20 of his 28 rebounds in the second half to go along with 16 points. After scoring just two points in the first quarter, Zach Wilson had 14 in the second half. Freshamn guard Devin McShane started the second half, to matchup against the guard-heavy Harrisburg roster, and hit a 3-pointer on the first play, finishing with eight points in the quarter. Billy Hale, who Amaya said carried the team in the first, finished four of six from behind the arc.
“We had a killer instinct going,” Amaya said.
The home win gives Amity (8-2) confidence going into league as the team finds itself in the unfamiliar role as the hunted instead of the hunters.
“My boys have realized that every game we’ve gotten everybody’s best,” Amaya said. “For some reason there’s a target on our back which is not usual for Amity basketball.”
The defensive environment is one reason for Amity’s growing reputation in 3A basketball. Amity is giving up just 43 points per game this season, which would be less minus giving up 79 points to Horizon Christian in a loss.
But Amaya said his team still has to prove it belongs at the top of the tough West Valley League. He knows that even a young version of a Sayton basketball team is dangerous.
“They’re young, but they’re experienced,” he said. “I have a felling it’ll be a high scoring game and will come down to the fourth quarter.”
Dayton finished its nonconference schedule Thursday with a 54-33 loss to Valley Catholic (10-1), regarded the top team in Class 3A.
“They’re an extremely good team,” said head coach Ron Hop. “We were outmanned from the getgo, and if you don’t play well the score will reflect that.”
Gabe Taylor, a University of Portland commit, led the way for Valley Catholic with 23 points and seven rebounds.
The Pirates shot just two for 14 from the field in the first half, and 8 of 25 for the game.
Dayton’s lone senior on the roster, Corwinn Hiatt, led the team with eight points, six rebounds and three steals.
Hop said he hopes the last game will make his team hungrier going into league play.
“We’ve got to play better and its my job to help them play better,” Hop said. “Our shot selection needs to get a little better. We’ve got some really good shooters and just have to understand when to shoot and when to pass.”
Dayton - starting a freshmen, three sophomores and a senior - went 5-4 in nonleague play. It’s four losses were against teams with a combined record of 34-7, including a McKay team ranked in the top 15 in Class 6A.
“I dont know if anyone expected us to beat those teams except for me,” Hop said. “With that said, we’re young and have a long way to go. But we have a lot of upside. As long as we improve we’ll be ok.”
Dayton has shown that upside. It beat a top ten team in Santiam Christian handily on Dec. 28, 56-37.
Hop compared Amity to Valley Catholic, in that both are very athletic, senior-oriented teams.
“They’re very long and they like to trap yout and get you going fast,” he said.
He said his team will have play with their heads up and dribble with a purpose in able to get the open shots it needs to beat Amity.
“We can’t get bigger and we can’t get taller in the next two months,” Hop said. “So we’ll have to get better mentally and execution wise. This is a good team.”
Tip-off for the boys game i set for 7:30 p.m.