UMATILLA — For the second straight year, members of the Umatilla boys basketball team climbed atop a ladder to cut down the net commemorating its Eastern Oregon League championship.
Last year, the Vikings sealed the deal with a 68-52 win over Vale. This year, they dominated early, came back from a third-quarter lull and pulled off a 61-44 victory against Burns.
“(When) you win back-to-back league champs it’s an awesome feeling to be the senior group to do that,” Kaden Webb said. Webb was one of six seniors honored before Umatilla’s final regular season home game.
But in the same breath that Webb spoke praises for the team’s effort Saturday evening, he admitted the celebration would need to be a quick one.
“At the end of the day, you have to move on,” Webb added. “You celebrate it in the moment but next week we have got to move on to district, then get ready for the state playoff game, so the road doesn’t stop here, you’ve got to keep going.”
As the Vikings (20-5 overall, 8-2 EOL) would have it, they will be heading into the postseason riding a five-game win streak.
In the past few games, winning didn’t come easy and good looks were hard to come by at times. Umatilla won back-to-back games by a two point margin before having a 22-point cushion against Vale just two days ago.
“The last four or five games we weren’t shooting (very well),” Webb said. “We (would) feel really good for some reason, we were having amazing weeks of practice and the ball just wouldn’t go in the hole for us on game night, and tonight we just finally found our groove.”
Umatilla opened the game with a staggering 22-8 lead after the first quarter capped off by two consecutive 3-points from Webb. He was responsible for 10 of those first-quarter points, and he ended the game with leading all scorers with 20.
“During timeouts, there was really nothing to tell the kids but to keep working hard and doing what they were doing because there were no adjustments,” head coach Scott Bow said.
The shots kept falling in the second, again Webb hit a three to extend the Vikings’ lead to 30-10. Fellow senior Moises Garcilazo chipped in a 3-pointer second early, and would score five of his seven total points in the second.
While Umatilla was increasing its advantage over Burns, the Hilanders (13-11, 6-3) had little going for them.
Senior Bryce Gross had the bulk of Burns’ first half points, earning most of them in the paint as he battled his way through Viking defenders. He notched 11 points in the first and second quarter, and finished with a team-best of 17.
The Vikings entered the locker room at halftime up 36-17, and had everything going their way.
As Umatilla prepared to come back out to the court and dominate, Burns was working on its own adjustments to vie for a league championship itself.
The Hilanders outscored Umatilla 13-4 in the third quarter, and kept chipping away at their deficit little by little.
Sophomore Dakota Ceja hit two 3-pointers two minutes apart to keep Burns within striking distance.
But in no time, the Vikings’ shots began to fall again and they eventually put enough distance between themselves and the Hilanders.
“Any time we’ve been down, we rallied every single time so there were no worries that way in the third quarter,” Bow said. “In the end, we made adjustments, (the kids) did what they were supposed to and took care of business.”
BHS 8 9 13 14 — 44
UHS 22 14 4 21 — 61
BURNS — B. Gross 17, D. Ceja 17, J. Cawood 4, Z. Taylor 4, L. Bailey 2.
UMATILLA — K. Webb 20, S. Garcia 10, M. Garcilazo 7, S. Cranston 7, C. De Loera 5, T. Durfey 4, L. Miller 3, U. Garcia 3, G. Armenta 1.
3-pointers — BHS 3, UHS x. Free throws — BHS 7-11, UHS 8-17. Fouls — BHS 17, UHS 17.