Two league games left for Burns
by Randy Parks
Austin Martin of Burns slashes his way to the basket in the closing minutes of the Hilanders’ win over Riverside. (Photo by RANDY PARKS)
The Burns boys varsity basketball team took over sole possession of first place in the Eastern Oregon League (EOL) with wins over Vale and Riverside Friday and Saturday, Feb. 1-2.
The Hilanders opened up the weekend with a 73-65 comeback win over the Vikings.
Vale jumped out to a 16-9 first quarter lead and led 30-26 at halftime.
“I felt our defensive intensity just wasn’t consistent in the first half,” Burns coach Ted Aubin said. “We had the game at our pace, but our defensive rotations were slow and our communication was poor.”
Both teams put 21 points on the scoreboard in the third quarter, setting up the come-from-behind effort by the Hilanders.
Burns outscored the Vikings 26-14 in the final period for the win. Once Burns got the lead, they spread the floor and Vale was forced to foul. The Hilanders hit 11 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
“It was definitely a playoff atmosphere. I think Vale got the benefit of some calls in the game, but at the end, the fouls evened out. I was very impressed and proud of the way our kids kept their composure throughout the entire game,” Aubin said.
Austin Feist led the Hilanders with 28 points. Jeff Garner chipped in with 15 and Tanner Crafts added 10.
The win over Vale set up the game with Riverside as a battle for first place in the league, as both teams came in with 4-1 records.
In a game that featured a number of ties and lead changes, the Hilanders scored the final eight points to pull out a 56-49 victory.
Feist scored 31 points, including five three-pointers, to lead Burns to the win.
Burns led 8-7 at the end of the first quarter and extended the lead to 26-20 by halftime.
Riverside began to chip away at Burns’ lead in the third quarter and eventually took a 34-33 lead on a three-pointer by Francisco Velazquez. Riverside added another basket with less than a minute left in the quarter to go up by three. As the final seconds ticked down, Burns got the ball to Austin Martin in the corner, and he banked in a three-pointer to tie the game at 36-36 headed into the fourth quarter. “That was a huge shot,” Aubin said. “We had lost some momentum, and that ignited our team and crowd.”
Feist scored the next 12 points for Burns, giving the Hilanders a 48-44 lead with about four minutes left in the game.
The Pirates weren’t done however, as they answered back with a basket and a three-pointer to go up 49-48 with just under three minutes left on the clock.
Garner and Martin scored back-to-back buckets to put Burns ahead by three with less than a minute to play, and Crafts swished two free throws after an intentional foul call on the Pirates to pretty much seal the win.
Feist added two free throws in the final seconds for the final margin of victory.
“We made some defensive adjustments from the first time we played them and changed the pace of the game,” senior guard Cam Hueckman explained. “We executed our offense better.”
Burns committed only 13 turnovers in the game, a huge improvement from committing 24 turnovers at Riverside.
The Hilanders also made 13 of 15 free throws in the game, including nine of nine in the fourth period.
“That was definitely a key. We prevented them from getting some easy looks in transition because we took care of the ball better this game,” Aubin said. “We also did a much better job attacking inside than we did the last time, and it caused their ‘bigs’ to get into a little bit of foul trouble.
“That was a great high school basketball game, capping off a great weekend of Hilander basketball. It was great to see that kind of joy and excitement from the team at the end of the game.”
Burns won the JV game 63-42 over the Pirates.
Burns is now 5-1 in league play, with two EOL games left on the schedule. The Hilanders will host Nyssa on Friday, Feb. 8, and then travel to Umatilla on Saturday, Feb. 9.