By Jerod Young • Jerod Young • 

It's not first, but Dayton ends season with a win

The prior three seasons ended with the Pirates (21-7) in the state championship game, including last year’s first-place finish.

“I know I’ve said this a lot lately — but it’s just good to get here,” Dayton coach Ron Hop said. “I think that once you make it to or past the quarterfinal round there aren’t really any losers. Every team that gets this far is the best the state has to offer.”

The Pirates once again faced a tough schedule throughout the state playoffs. They started in the quarterfinals against an experienced opponent in Portland Adventist Academy.

Hop went to Portland and scouted the Cougars first-round game against Salem Academy and said Portland Adventist Academy has been consistently well coached.

“They’re really well coached and they execute very well,” Hop said. “They run a fast offense and a trap-zone defense. It’s tough.”

The Cougars gave Dayton a challenge and were able to overcome the Pirates’ 12-point second-half lead to come within three points in the final minutes. Dayton escaped with the 58-55 win to set up a much-anticipated semifinal game against West Valley League rival Horizon Christian.

The Hawks won two of the three meetings between the two teams this season including their last meeting Feb. 16 65-53.

“It’s definitely a rivalry,” Dayton senior Justin Sutton said during the West Valley League tournament. “Both teams don’t just want to win league, we badly want to beat each other. Bad.”

Hop said the program couldn’t be concerned with how the history between the two teams shook out during the season because anything could happen in the state playoffs.

“We were too concerned with PA at the time,” Hop said. “You can’t afford to look past them to the possibility of playing Horizon in the semifinal. For all you know they could’ve committed a bunch of turnovers and been upset by Oregon Episcopal.”

For the third time in four tries, the Hawks bested the Pirates 53-30 Friday and eliminated Dayton’s chance to play in a fourth consecutive state championship game.

The Pirates entered unfamiliar territory: the consolation bracket. Dayton hasn’t played in a consolation game since the 2008-09 season when it lost 68-44 to Santiam Christian in the consolation semifinals.

“It’s never fun to lose,” Hop said. “But we knew our season was far from over. We had to get our focus back and get ready to play Valley Catholic for third.”

Valley Catholic won the Lewis & Clark League averaging 58 points per game. The Valiants gave up an average of 40 points per game.

Dayton finished second to Horizon Christian in the West Valley League, and averaged 57 points per game and gave up 49 points per game.

What the Valiants didn’t account for was Dayton’s hot shooting touch from 3-point land.

The Pirates shot 7-of-10 from 3-point range and held Valley Catholic to 26 percent shooting from the field in the win.

“I’m really happy for them,” Hop said. “I’m happy for our school and the Dayton community. A lot of people made the long trip and it was good to see our colors represented in Coos Bay.”

The four Pirate seniors had a big impact in their final game in a Dayton uniform.

Justin Sutton had 16 points, Forrest Garcia struggled, shooting 2-of-7, but had four assists and three steals. Nathan Bernards, a four-year varsity player for Hop, made both 3-point attempts to finish with seven points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Freshman Zach Spink had another quality playoff outing, giving Dayton six points and three rebounds.

The Pirates led 17-7 after the first quarter, but Valley Catholic went on a seven-point run to cut the Pirates’ lead to 19-14 at halftime. Dayton went on an 18-12 run in the third quarter to give the Pirates a 37-26 lead going to the fourth quarter.

“Our main goal was to try to keep them and their post players out of the paint,” Hop said. “This was the final game for the seniors and I could not have asked for a better effort. I just told them to keep pushing. They did and got a well-deserved win.”

Note: Garcia was selected to the U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires All-Tournament Second Team.

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