MORO – While everyone outside their locker room had doubts as to how realistic any Baker City berths were at the start of the season, the Sherman Huskies held steadfast to the belief that anything was possible as long as they put in the work and stayed united.
That extra drive was all they needed to pick up a fifth consecutive trip to Baker.
Keenan Coles led all scorers with 17 points, Luke Martin had 13, Wade Fields put up 12 and Caleb Fritts turned in 11 points to push the No. 1 Huskies to a 62-41 triumph over Siletz Valley Friday in second round state boys hoops play in Moro.
“I think it shows how much resiliency they have,” Sherman coach Gary Lewis said. “There are a lot of people who sold these guys short and didn’t think they would do that well this year. Even some folks out here in Sherman. There were some who thought that we would be OK, but not good enough to contend. These guys have worked hard and kept persevering, so it is nice to see them rewarded for overcoming the odds.”
While the final score read a 21-point win, there was a stretch in the third quarter where the Warriors made things interesting.
Sherman (24-3 overall) led 23-8 after one period and Fritts made it 35-13 after a jumper with 4:01 left in the second quarter.
Siletz (16-7) gained a little ground in the final half of the second quarter, getting to within 38-19 at the break.
In the first 5:04 of the third quarter, the Warriors turned the tide with a 13-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Anthony Simmons and a layup from Tyson Rilatos to make it a 40-32 Husky lead.
Following a timeout and a spirited conversation in the huddle, Sherman used a 6-2 run at the end of the third quarter and started the first 4:46 of the final quarter on a 7-4 spurt to go ahead, 53-38, and fend off Siletz Valley’s charge.
In the last 2:23, Sherman hit 8 of 10 free throws to the maintain the distance for the win.
Coles and Martin were in line to capture a fourth consecutive Big Sky district championship on Feb. 16, but those plans were emphatically derailed by a 45-35 loss to Horizon Christian.
That humbling defeat gave the Sherman players a chance to push the restart button and refocus on a new set of goals.
“It was painful for all of us,” Coles said. “It was definitely a defining moment. We used it as motivation because it was a tough loss and it really hurt to see that we came up short. It showed us that there were a lot of areas that we needed to improve on. It made us motivated to get back in the gym and get better in those parts of our game.”
Blessed with another trip to Baker City, where an opening-round date is slated for 1:30 pm Wednesday versus Prairie City (25-2), Fritts and his teammates know the next challenge will be much more difficult.
“We are going to be happy to be there because we earned this chance, but we also have to make sure that we don’t get the naysayers into our minds to where we end up doing the wrong things,” Fritts said. “We proved a lot of people wrong and that’s great, but it’s in the past. We have something bigger on our minds now and we can’t lose sight of that. Our energy has to be productive and smart. It is important for us to play our game and do what’s best for us as a team and the rest will take care of itself.”