UMATILLA — The Umatilla boys basketball team had spent almost its entire winter break on the road.
From facing the Nixyaawii Eagles on their home court to playing in the Salem Academy Christian Holiday Tournament, it was the team’s longest away stretch of the season. And as of Tuesday, the joyful return was put on hold after Umatilla dropped its third game of the season.
The Vikings, however, quickly recovered and in front of a home crowd dished the visiting Stanfield Tigers an 80-22 beating on Thursday.
“I’m glad we were able to end our long, multiple games, tournaments, New Year’s, Christmas vacation right now,” head coach Scott Bow said after the game. “Sickness has hit our team, we’ve had multiple kids not playing or dehydrated all game because of it, so I’m glad we ended where we did today.”
The fatigue of travel and illness that comes with the new season didn’t show on the court.
Umatilla was able to get out to an early 18-4 lead after the first quarter, and stay in control for the rest of the game.
The Vikings (12-3) had standout performances from a number of players and had 12 of their 13-player roster put points on the board.
Junior Uriel Garcia led the team with a game-high 18 points followed by senior Kaden Webb, who dished out 16 points of his own, and junior Sebastian Garcia, who knocked down 12.
One of Bow’s goals for the team was to step up its defensive output. During Umatilla’s road trip the most points it had given up was 61 points — the second most points scored on the Vikings this season.
“We’ve held teams, even our losses, way below their averages and that was our goal tonight to hold them below their average,” he said. “We met our goal.”
The Tigers (6-8) were averaging 48.7 points per game coming into Thursday’s game, and finished well below barely reaching the 20-point mark.
“Defense has kind of been our MO,” Bow said. “Our kids have bought into the defense very, very well and that’s the one thing every night we’ve relied on.”
Umatilla’s defense completely shut down Stanfield. The Tigers were kept in the single digits every quarter, and no player was able to score more than eight points — junior Fernando Ramirez led the team with eight points.
And with good defense comes good offense. Uriel Garcia had a team-high of four 3-pointers, while Webb and Sebastian Garcia each had two apiece.
Coming off of the back-to-back losses with a nearly 40-point victory is a good momentum booster, but Bow and his squad know none of that matters when league play starts next week.
“Records out the window at this point for us,” he said. “0-0 everyone is fresh.”
Umatilla will get some much-needed rest before hosting Irrigon on Jan 12 to open Eastern Oregon League play.
Entering Thursday’s doubleheader against Umatilla, Stanfield girls basketball head coach, Daniel Sharp, told his team at the half that if they committed over 30 turnovers they would lose the game.
He turned out to be wrong, because the tough Tiger squad outlasted the Vikings to win only their second game of the year.
The 33-32 victory came down to the wire, and despite the 34 total turnovers committed by Stanfield, the Tigers (2-11) were able to hold on for the win.
“I thought we played harder than we have been,” Sharp said. “We played Umatilla earlier in the year so it’s always fun to get a second game and see if we can get better, and that was the goal: to get better.”
In the two teams’ first meeting back on Dec. 9, it was the Vikings who came away with the narrow victory. The 49-41 loss was Stanfield’s seventh in a row at that point in the season, but Sharp saw some improvement on the court and notable performances from a few Tigers.
“Kendra (Hart) played tough,” Sharp said. “She had four fouls in the whole fourth quarter but said, ‘I’ll go play,’ and she did — and she didn’t foul, she played smart. She’s a super athlete.
“I thought that Amanda (Carrillo) finally started to attack,” he added. “We lacked that ability to attack the basket and she did that tonight. I thought (Allison Griffin) played good defense. When they do their role, it works out better.”
The first quarter of what ended as a nail bitter was forgettable. Both teams committed more turnovers than attempted shots, and the score was a meager 5-4 in favor of Stanfield.
Play picked up before the break with the Tigers still holding on to their lead — this time up 19-14.
The Vikings (3-11) made some adjustments at the break and outscored Stanfield 8-4 in the third quarter.
Both teams put up 10 points apiece in the fourth and final quarter, but thanks to the Tigers’ early efforts they were able to squeak away with the win.
Sophomore Savannah Sharp led those efforts with a game-high 12 points. Carrillo pitched in 10 and Hart added eight of her own.
Leading Umatilla was junior Charlene Alvarez, who finished with 10 points.
Stanfield has one more game before league play when it hosts Echo on Tuesday. Like the boys, Umatilla will enjoy some time off before facing Irrigon in the first game of the EOL opening doubleheader.