TOLEDO — Fans at George Murdock gymnasium had seen the movie play out before. The Toledo boys basketball team came in underdogs to an opponent higher up in the Central 2B League standing, had fired a shot across the bow early, and played a close first half. But once again, the foe — this time in the form of 2B No. 7 Adna — had pulled away, setting it up to come once again oh-so-close to a statement win.
But the Riverhawks had a different sort of ending in mind Friday.
After falling behind by 11 on Adna’s first possession of the fourth quarter, the Toledo defense clamped down, and the offense went to slow, methodical work. And when the the final buzzer sounded after a hectic final 30 second, the Riverhawks had their shocker, 52-51 over the Pirates.
“We have knocked on the door, but I think this validates all the hard work we’ve put in,” Toledo coach Grady Fallon said.
Nobody knew that when Braeden Salme cut free to the basket for a layup seconds into the fourth quarter, the Pirates had hit their final field goal of the game, and that when Seth Meister split a pair of free throws two minutes later, Adna had found its final score with six minutes left.
But when Kaven Winters slid free for a backdoor cut that made it a seven-point game, the vibe on the Toledo bench began to shift.
“That switches the momentum, and gave us the confidence like, ‘Yeah, we can do this,’” Fallon said.
Winters hit a jumper with just over four minutes left to cut the deficit to four. A minute later, he came down with an offensive rebound and looked to be stuck under the basket, but looped around for a long-arm layup, drawing a foul on the way for a three-point play.
“If he gets stopped, he still has a long step-through,” Fallon said. “I’ve played against him in open gyms, and I’ve seen him do it several times against good defenders. Lefties are just a little bit different in how you guard them, and he’s crafty.”
Toledo got one more stop, and the ball went right back to Winters, who drove baseline and drew a foul, hitting both free throws to give Toledo a 52-51 lead — its first lead since midway through the first quarter — with 1:20 to go.
From there, Toledo’s defense held once again, and while the Riverhawks couldn’t score, two clutch offensive rebounds from Cooper Fallon and Conner Olmstead helped whittle the clock down. Adna got one last possession with 20 seconds left, but never got a shot off.
Winters finished with a game-high 26 points, going 7 for 7 at the line. Nine of those points came in the fourth quarter. Olmstead added 10 points and nine rebounds.
As a team, Toledo went 10 for 12 from the charity stripe, while Adna finished 6 for 11.
Salme had 22 for Adna, but was the only Pirate to finish in double figures. After falling behind early, Adna took the lead with two minutes to go in the first quarter and pushed it out to as many as 16 points with three minutes left in the first half. Winters went on a brief run to narrow the gap to eight going into halftime, and the Pirates would never be able to pull away for good in the third quarter.
“There was a 12-minute stretch where we defended really tough, and I don’t think we defended tough in the second half for one minute,” Adna coach Luke Salme said. “In this league, after Christmas, you’re not going to win if you don’t defend consistently.”
It’s the fourth loss in the past seven games for the Pirates, who went into New Year’s with a 10-1 record and now sit at 13-5 overall.
“We’re not showing nearly the fight we need to to win games right now… and it’s already caught up to us,” Luke Salme said.
Adna will try to right the ship back at home next Wednesday, against Rainier.
For the Riverhawks’ part, Friday night was a massive result beyond the matter of closing out a big win. Currently occupying the seventh spot in the C2BL standings — which takes with it the last spot to the district tournament — Toledo now has a bit of a cushion there with three games to go over eighth-place Onalaska.
The Riverhawks will try to keep things rolling after a week off next Friday, at home against Winlock.
“This is a confidence-booster,” Fallon said. “We know that we shot ourselves in the foot against Toutle. We shot ourselves in the foot against Rainier… Hopefully, this gives them a little more confidence and they believe in each other and what we’re capable of.”