A crowd split evenly between supporters for Hood River Valley and The Dalles-Wahtonka witnessed one of the more exciting basketball games in years Tuesday at Vannet Court.
The TDW boys prevailed, 61-50, despite a vigorous fourth-quarter comeback by HRV.
In the opener of the doubleheader between Gorge rivals, the TDW girls beat HRV 38-28 in a game that was 13-7 at half-time. HRV managed eight field goals on the night.
The Eagle boys and girls teams lost for the second time in a week to TDW, and are still searching for their first Columbia Gorge Conference wins, heading into Friday’s games with Pendleton (results unavailable at press time).
The TDW boys went up by as much as 13 and the HRV squad came close to tying the score down the stretch but the Eagles could not complete the comeback.
Ryan Wheat led HRV with 13 points and Luke Kopecky scored 10 in a balanced Eagle attack. Wyatt Webber added eight points and six rebounds, RJ Chavez seven points, and sophomore guard Austin Clarke chipped in five.
TDW built an 8-0 led in the first two minutes and led 32-20 at the half.
Clarke, Webber and Chavez played scrappy perimeter defense in the third. The Eagles outscored TDW 14-9 in the quarter, as Chavez and Clarke each nailed threes.
“It’s just stuff in that first half that got us. All we had was five rebounds,” Kopecky said. “At the half, we just came out and rebounded. We did what coach (Steve Noteboom) asked and came out fired up. We focused on getting it in first and taking the outer shots second.”
The strategy paid off immediately as HRV scored two baskets in the paint in the first minute of the third quarter, including Eli Fults’ left-handed baby hook to make it 32-24.
The game had its share of exciting moments, even before the crucial last few minutes when TDW finally put it out of reach.
Late in the second quarter, Kopecky scored after a sweet dish by Cesar Romero, and on the other end Webber tipped the ball straight up and away from a TDW player, who thought it went out of bounds. Romero snagged it and dashed across half-court, where he was tied up and almost forced into an over-and-back, then fouled.
Chavez’s buzzer-beater three-point shot gave HRV momentum heading into the fourth quarter, down 41-34. Dribbling across half court with three seconds left, Clarke passed the ball just in time to Chavez, who instantly released just as the buzzer sounded.
In the thrilling fourth quarter, the Eagles tightly contested every pass and touch.
Chavez’s corner jumper and a pair of Kopecky attacks in the lane brought HRV to within two, at 46-44 about five minutes left.
Kopecky scored six of his 10 points in the final quarter. His drives came less than 30 seconds apart, as the Eagles repeatedly worked at getting the ball low to Kopecky and Wheat, as well as Fults, who got fouled in the post, and made one of two for a 49-44 margin. Wheat hit another three to keep HRV within five, but with 4:14 remaining, TDW’s Grayson Byers (game-high 15) went to the line and hit both free throws to make it 54-47.
The teams traded baskets and Webber hit a corner jumper to make it 58-50 at 1:22, but that was the end of the Eagles’ hopes for the night.
The Eagles repeatedly pushed the ball hard into the middle but saw their chance of victory denied by their own turnovers and clutch TDW foul shooting down the stretch.
For TDW, Hunter Malcolm added 13 and Clay Copper nine.
In the girls game, HRV and TDW both seemed hesitant to shoot in the first half, and what shots went up rarely fell.
The score was 0-0 until 4:05, and 4-2, TDW, after one quarter.
The Eagles put up three straight air balls at one point in the first quarter.
Then sophomore post Lauren Winans called for the ball, backed down a step, turned and banked it in, 3-2.
But The Dalles went up 11-2, led by scores and assists by Emily Bailey (who scored nine points, as did Shanelle Smith).
HRV pulled to 11-6 on Hallie Curtis’ three-pointer but quickly found itself behind 19-7. They battled back with six more threes in the second half, including three by Laura Waller.
Kelsey Wells’ free throws made it 23-17 but then TDW expanded the lead to double digits.
Waller kept Hood River in it, hitting a three to make it 34-28 with 1:30 left.
But HRV got the ball into its hands only twice more. On the final possession, down by eight, they dribbled and passed the ball around the arc and then lost it out of bounds.
“We’ve got to make shots,” said coach Tom Ames. “We got pretty darned good looks in the first, then spread against their two-and-two one, and got really good looks and made a few but we just didn’t get the ball in a middle enough. We were satisfied with the perimeter. I kept saying, ‘high post, high post,’ but they didn’t (get it in).”
Asked about the general hesitancy to shoot, Ames said, “I don’t know; we really aren’t that way. They know they can shoot it and are more than free to do it. It’s kind of strange.”
The Eagles were 0 for 9 from beyond the arc in the first half before Curtis hit her shot.
“I’m good with those looks; they just didn’t go in,” said Ames, who praised the post work of his sophomores, Wells and Winans (five and four points, respectively.)
“Kelsey made good decisions. She can do that when she gets it inside.”