Pirates keep streaking
With Dayton’s (15-5, 10-1) 81-32 win Wednesday over Gervais (6-15, 3-8), the Pirates are near the conclusion of a very long week of basketball.
The stretch began on the road Jan. 25 with a six-point win over Westside Christian. The Pirates then followed that up with a rare Saturday game vs. Pleasant Hill down in Eugene at Northwest Christian University, which the Pirates won 54-43.
Dayton took Sunday off, but was right back to work Monday with a home game against struggling Willamina. The Pirates won that one 89-47, and continued their winning ways Wednesday vs. Gervais. Dayton officially ends its long week of basketball today at 7:30 p.m. at Horizon Christian.
Wednesday against Gervais, the Pirates looked fresh and relaxed, not like a team that has played four games in six days.
“We’re tired, but you can tell that it doesn’t take long for us to find our rhythm,” said Dayton guard Justin Sutton, who finished with 18 points and five assists. “We have to keep going until someone can stop us.”
That someone wasn’t the Cougars.
The Pirates got off to a quick start with their motion offense and got shooters like Sutton and Nathan Bernards to the basket. Bernards finished with a team-leading 19 points and 11 rebounds. Dayton coach Ron Hop said the key to a long stretch of basketball is rest, though there’s not much of it to be had.
“We’ve got Horizon Christian next,” Hop said. “We won’t have a long practice Thursday, and the key is to get guys rest since you don’t get a lot of time to practice with games so close together.”
The Dayton starters got plenty of rest throughout the Gervais game.
Dayton cruised to a 23-6 lead by the end of the first quarter, and was up 53-16 at halftime. By the end of the third quarter, the Pirates cleared the bench and gave the starters what they need most.
The Pirates’ lead was never in jeopardy as freshmen Devin Nowlin and Zach Spink stepped up. Nowlin finished with seven points and two rebounds as a starter, and Spink finished with four points and three rebounds as the sixth man off the bench.
“They gave us quality minutes and a real good effort,” Hop said. “This team is deep and everyone can play. Devin and Zach showed some good things tonight.”
Both Nowlin and Spink were grateful for the playing time and want to play whatever role they can.
“I think it’s really fun,” Nowlin said. “Initially I just wanted to come in and just do whatever I could to help the team, and it’s just been a really fun year.”
Spink added: “It’s just a fun experience,” he said. “Getting to play with these guys against good competition, it’s fun getting better every day with them.”
The learning experience was evident on the court, not only offensively but on the defensive end as well. The two up-and-coming freshmen combined for three steals.
By the end of the third quarter, the Pirates were up 69-26 and well on their way to victory. Hop cleared the bench and had an all freshmen lineup for the final quarter.
“I tell these guys that at this point in the season, every game is like a playoff game,” Hop said. “And they have to bring it every night. Everyone, no matter their year. If they play, it’s expected.”
The freshmen held Gervais to six points in the fourth quarter while scoring 12. Freshman Elijah Shadden added four points and four rebounds for the Pirates, while Riley Hanisch had two points and two rebounds.
The Pirates turn their attention to finishing the season on the road, leading off at 7 p.m. Friday with one-loss Horizon Christian.
Notes: Senior leader Forrest Garcia is practicing, lightly, and shooting, gingerly, with a cast still on his left broken foot. Garcia has missed the last month and a half of the season. Hop said Dayton will know Monday if Garcia will be able to play in the first round of the playoffs. He goes for another x-ray Monday.