Making the most of a snowball’s chance
Remember the snowfall?
The blanket of white, six inches deep, covering Yamhill County, making time stand still. Feb. 7-9 was a moment in suspension.
Sometime during that weekend, McMinnville senior guard Gage Gubrud received a text message from his father, Perrydale athletic director Chris Gubrud. The text game after the McMinnville basketball team had stopped a slide in Class 6A Pacific Conference play; the Grizzlies were 12-5 overall but, to that point, had posted a mediocre 4-4 record in the league.
“He said the last six or seven games are going to decide the Player of the Year,” Gage Gubrud says. Pacific Conference player of the year had been one of his stated goals before the season. “He’s right. (There was) nothing to hold back now. That text kind of motivated me.”
Gage Gubrud is not the News-Register’s All-Valley Boys Basketball Athlete of the Year for 2013 for what happened after the snowfall. He is the Athlete of the Year for an impressive body of work that culminated in an appearance in the second round OSAA Class 6A state playoffs.
Gubrud led the Grizzlies in scoring, averaging 18.9 points per game. (He played 23 of Mac’s 25 games due to injury, including a shoulder ailment carrying over from football season, where he was the News-Register’s Football Most Valuable Player for 2013.) He also averaged 3.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Along with senior teammate Vince Boumann, Gubrud was named to the Pacific Conference first team – not Player of the Year, but still a high honor.
As a 6-foot-3 shooting guard, Gubrud is versatile. He and Mac point guard Tanner Autencio were the Grizzlies’ primary ball handlers, entrusted with keeping the offense flowing. He was enough of an outside threat, shooting 32.9 percent from three-point range, that teams were forced to guard him close at the perimeter.
That element opened up perhaps the most polished portion of Gubrud’s game – his driving ability. Gubrud shot 46.4 percent from two-point range in 2013-14, largely attributable to his ability to drive past his defenders and get to the rim. Every so often, he would unleash an in-game dunk to add to the crowd’s entertainment.
“That’s my strength,” Gubrud says. “If I can just go by someone, that opens everything up. Once I get going, I’m tough to stop.”
Once the snow fell and the schedules were rearranged, the Grizzlies had three games the week of Feb. 10 – against Tigard, Century and Tualatin, all top-five league finishers this season. The Grizzlies opened that stretch by dealing the Tigers a 63-52 loss on Feb. 11, Tigard’s first league loss in two seasons.
McMinnville swept that three-game stretch and added home victories over Glencoe and Newberg – the last before a fervent Senior Night home crowd at The Furnace – on their way to a second-place finish in the Pacific Conference. Every team that beat the Grizzlies on the first go-around was stopped the second time.
Gubrud put the team on his back offensively those two weeks, scoring a combined 128 points in the five games.
“I was on a roll,” he says. “Everything just opened up because the team was doing really well. We were all just clicking. You’re just feeling it.”
The winning streak extended to 10 games before McMinnville’s exit against Sunset on March 8, an 83-71 defeat. The end result stung, but not enough to take away the elation of the past month.
“If you think back, we did something that Mac basketball rarely does,” Gubrud said. “It felt like the whole school was behind us. The support from the students, the administration, the community was awesome.
“You had the feeling that might happen. We’d be sitting in the locker room like, we know we can beat every single team we played. It’s hard to stop a bowling ball that’s rolling downhill.”
Or, may we suggest, a snowball.