Distance between 2 points and a state title
It is the cruelest of fates: two points separated the Amity boys basketball team from a chance at playing for hardware.
Perhaps even for a state championship banner.
Oh, what could have been.
“When you get to state, you’ve got to have luck,” Warriors coach Justin Amaya said. “Down the stretch, we didn’t execute as well as we’d like and we didn’t have any luck.”
Amity entered the Class 3A state tournament in Coos Bay riding high, having made the quarterfinals for the first time since 1997 and having knocked off Horizon Christian of Tualatin to win the Class 3A West Valley League tournament. The No. 6 Warriors drew No. 3 Portland Adventist Academy in the quarterfinals, held at Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, and prepared to avenge a loss from early in the season.
Instead, Amity was outscored 13-3 in the first quarter and made 4-of-24 field goals (16.7 percent) in the first half against the Cougars. Freshman Devin McShane scored all of his team-high 13 points to give the Warriors a shot in the arm, and a layup by Billy Hale with 2:14 remaining gave Amity a 45-43 lead.
However, with three seconds remaining, Warriors senior Zach Wilson was whistled for a foul on PAA’s Trent Torkelson on a layup, which Torkelson made. Torkelson then sank the free throw, and a last-ditch three-pointer missed its mark, knocking Amity into consolation play.
“We played really well the second half of the game,” Amaya said. “We could’ve just packed it in and not wanted to play hard. It’s a tough loss. A rebound or a no-call, and we win by two.”
The Warriors had to have a short memory with a Friday tilt against Cascade Christian of Medford, the tournament’s No. 2 seed. The Challengers were ousted by No. 10 De La Salle North Catholic, the state runner-up, in the quarterfinals.
“Cascade was real dirty and physical,” Amaya said. “But the real reason why we didn’t win the game was because we struggled shooting the ball.”
The Warriors made 34.7 percent of their field goals (17-of-49), compared to 50.0 percent (19-of-38) for Cascade Christian. The Challengers also outrebounded Amity, 31-25.
Again, though, the Warriors clawed their way back, coming within one point of Cascade Christian four separate times in the fourth quarter. Amity trailed 51-48 with 12 seconds remaining before McShane was fouled and made two free throws. The Warriors forced a turnover with three seconds remaining, but a second last-gasp three-pointer missed its mark.
Billy Hale led Amity with 15 points off the bench against the Challengers, and Lance Nelson scored 13 points.
For all that the Warriors (24-6 overall) had been through, they left Coos Bay with heads unbowed.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of boys and this basketball program,” Amaya said. “The whole town pretty much closed down to come Thursday and support us. You wouldn’t expect many to come Friday, but we still had 300, 400 people there.”
Perhaps the most encouraging sign, in Amaya’s eyes: players began asking him, not long after the loss to Cascade Christian, about spring and summer ball.
“The program’s definitely headed in the right direction,” he said.