Playing for their playoff lives without all-league guard Dakota Murr, The Dalles Riverhawks had other players rise up to the challenge to help fend off Hood River Valley.
Murr, who finished with a game-high 33 points, fouled out with three minutes and 45 seconds remaining, but Josh Nisbet, Oscar Fernandez, Eric Flores and company ended the game on a 13-7 run to secure a 76-60 victory Friday night in front of a raucous crowd at Kurtz Gym.
“I don’t think we were really worried about it. We all just knew what we had to do,” Nisbet said. “We needed to execute our plays and I think we did that amazingly well and we got that ‘W.’ It was awesome to get this win. We definitely needed it, especially being 0-4 in league until tonight. To get this one against Hood River, that was a great feeling. Now, we are pumped and ready to go for another one.”
Once Murr exited action, the Riverhawk defense held Hood River Valley to two field goals, the last one a desperation 3-pointer as time was running out.
Offensively, Nisbet dropped the probable dagger in the Eagles’ comeback hopes with a 3-pointer with 2:52 left to run the lead to 67-53, and after a HRV turnover, Fernandez hit 1 of 2 free throws.
A jumper by HRV guard JJ Mears, at the 2:24 mark, made the score 68-55.
With 1:50 on the clock, Nisbet was fouled on a drive to the basket and then a technical foul was called on Carson Flores.
Nisbet coolly drilled 3 of his 4 free throws to extend the Hawk lead to 71-55.
Fernandez later hit a pair of free throws, and Flores added a steal and a layup to make it a 75-55 Riverhawk advantage with 1:28 on the clock.
In the final minutes, Hood River Valley made 2 of 4 free throw attempts and then added a late 3-pointer.
“It took passion and tough defense to beat them. We all played defense,” said Fernandez. “We all knew what we had to do and we just had to execute, so that is what we did tonight. We were able to fix the mistakes that we made against them last week.”
Early on, Mears hit a half-court buzzer beater to end the opening quarter , giving the Eagles a 21-18 lead.
In the second period, Murr busted loose for 15 points, Flores added a 3-pointer and Nisbet tacked on a free throw to tie the score at 37-all at halftime.
The Hawks jumped out to a 45-40 lead in the first 4:38 of the third quarter, when a 3-pointer by Johnny Miller, two free throws by Fernandez and another free throw by Nisbet gave TD a 51-40 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
In that third period, the Eagles managed just one field goal, by Dakota Kurahara, and Erik Siekkinen went 1 of 2 from the line.
Hood River Valley (6-10 overall, 1-3 league) totaled 20 field goals, six 3-pointers, and converted 14 of 28 from the line.
Mears scored 17 points to lead HRV, Kurahara followed up with 16 points, three in the second half, and Carson Flores had 10 points.
“We had kids put up big numbers, shooting-wise, but that wasn’t what won the game,” said TD head coach Nathan Morris. “What won us the game was Dawson Hoffman coming in playing great defense, Eric Flores, and Oscar Fernandez playing phenomenal defense. That’s what wins games. It is not about kids making shots necessarily, you have to do that, but our second-half defense, that is what won us the game.”
After Murr’s 33, Nisbet tallied 16, Miller sank five 3-pointers for his 15, and Flores went for seven points, as The Dalles dropped 19 field goals, 10 3-pointers and shot 28 of 40 from the line.
The Dalles (2-14, 1-4) has a tough three-game stretch over the next six calendar days, with contests scheduled against Pendleton and Hermiston.
At 7 p.m. Monday, the Hawks travel to take on No. 10 Pendleton (9-4, 4-0).
“We’ve just got to bring more effort than we did tonight,” Murr said. “Monday against Pendleton, they have Caden (Smith). If we lock him down, they really don’t have anyone else. We have to rebound, block out and not commit turnovers. If we can do all those things, we can beat anybody we play against.”