The early returns on this year’s Warrior boys basketball team have been mixed. They’ve won and lost games convincingly and also lost a few close games. Saturday night’s 54-53 road win at Cascade saw them do the one thing they hadn’t done yet: Win a close game. The Warriors combined to shoot eight for eight from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter to account for half the team’s points, with Jason Smarr making four and Travis Bakken and Brady Edwards two each. The other half came on three pointers from Edwards and Jordan Rice and a jumper from Smarr.
The fourth quarter began with the Warriors ahead 38-36. The Bruins had taken a 45-44 lead with just over five minutes left in the game, when Rice struck with his 3-ball. Cascade quickly answered only to have Edwards nail his 3-pointer. Cascade’s Nick Benenati tied it back up at 50 setting the stage for a frantic final minute. Following a Warrior miss, the Bruins’ Brevan Brown made a lay-in and after another Warrior miss, down two, E-W was forced to foul. Cascade’s Brennan Hancock made the first free throw, but before he could shoot his second one, Brown was whistled for a technical foul for shoving Rice. Hancock then missed his second free-throw and the Warrior’s Smarr was sent to the line to shoot the technical free throws. Smarr made them both and E-W now trailed by one with the ball.
Not surprisingly, the Warriors went to Bakken down low, who was fouled on the attempted shot. Bakken converted both free throws, putting the Warriors up by one. Following a time-out, Cascade had a chance to win it, but fortunately for the E-W, Benenati’s shot from 30 feet rattled out and the Warriors escaped with the victory. Cascade’s coach Darrell McNeal said, “coming into the game our goal was to stop Bakken and Smarr. I thought we did a decent job overall, but their free throws down the stretch were huge.”
The Warriors trailed 14-8 after the first quarter with Theo Lebesis accounting for half the team’s points. The second quarter went a little better as Bakken began to get better looks, scoring eight points in the frame as E-W went into the half up 24-21. Cascade closed the gap slightly in the third period outscoring the Warriors 15-14. In the end , the Warriors did just enough to win. Bakken led the scoring with 18, followed by Smarr’s 15. Lebesis added 8 points, all in the first half.
The win, the Warriors’ second straight, keeps them in second place in the conference at 3-1. Next up for E-W is a home game against the always tough Arlington Eagles. Thursday’s 7:15 p.m. game will also air on the Sound Live Sports Network.
E-W: 8 16 14 16 -54
Cascade: 14 7 15 17 -53
Warriors scoring: Rice 6, Edwards 5, Budnick 2, Lebesis 8, Smarr 15, Bakken 18, Holland, Polovina, Sherrill, Okereke
— By Jeff Smarr