Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Revised Wednesday, February 20, 2013
PENDLETON - The Irrigon Knights defeated the Pilot Rock Rockets 33-32 to win the Blue Mountain Conference championship game on Saturday, February 16, 2013. The win gave Irrigon a perfect 25-0 undefeated regular season. The Knights record goes like this - 2A Blue Mountain Conference 16-0, against all 2A teams 17-0, home games won 9-0, away games won 11-0 and neutral site games won 5-0. Pilot had a 21-4 record coming into the championship game.
The Knights have bonded well over the course of the season. They can play a driving, energized offense while playing a strong defense. They are fast, athletic and accurate with their shots. The starting five are made up of two sophomores, a junior and two seniors.
The Knights had met the Rockets on Saturday, February 18, 2012 in the BMC final last year. Pilot Rock won the highly contested game 51-48. So Irrigon was looking to avenge the loss and keep their undefeated season going. You can read an article on last years game here: http://www.hermistonsportspage.com/2012/02/18/prhsihsmbk
Many Knights' fans were wearing Knight Nation t-shirts in support of their favorite team.
The first quarter started slowly with the first point scored at 5:55. The teams were testing each other and playing strong defense that limited the scoring. The first point came on a freethrow by Jose Romero. Jason GrosJacques of Pilot Rock then hit two freethrows to give the Rockets the 2-1 lead at 4:52. Anthony Landeros of Irrigon then hit a trey around the 4;30 mark to give the Knights the 4-2 lead. GrosJacques of PR then scored on a lay up to tie it at 4-4. Ernesto Aguilera of the Knights then hit a trey to take a 7-4 lead with 3:30 to go in the first. Josh Barkley of the Rockets then hit a jumper at 2:44 to cut Irrigon's lead to 7-6. The teams battled up and down the court for the next two and a half minutes but neither team was able to score. Irrigon led at the end of the first quarter 7-6.
Pilot Rock outscored Irrigon 12-6 in the second quarter as both teams played more physically increasing the pressure on both ends of the court. Scoring for Pilot Rock in the second quarter were Tanner Doherty, Skylar Leasy, Josh Barkley and Tyler Simmons. Irrigon Knights scoring in the second were Ernesto Aguilera, Anthony Landeros and Eric Vera. Pilot Rock led at halftime 18-13.
Irrigon outscored Pilot Rock 12-0 in the third quarter. The Knights kept their style of play consistant through the quarter. The third quarter was a complete turn around for the Rockets as they went scoreless for the entire quarter. The Rockets went without scoring for around 11 minutes counting the second, third and fourth quarters. Irrigon players scoring in the third were Ernesto Aguilera, Anthony Landeros, Adrian Romero and Francisco Nunez. Irrigon led by seven at the end of the third, 25-18.
Pilot Rock out scored Irrigon 14-8 in the fourth quarter clawing their way out of a scoreless quarter. Irrigon scoring slowed in the fourth. The Knights score came with 2:46 to go in the game. Pilot Rock decided to attempt to foul their way back into the game. With the fouls coming in the back court the Knights didn't have much opportunity to get to the foul line over those last several minutes. Most of the scoring for the Rockets came from Jason GrosJacques and Zach Snively. Knights scoring in the fourth were Fredy Vera, Ernesto Aguilera and Adrian Romero hit a trey.
Tension rose in the Pendleton Convention Center as Pilot Rock cut into the Knights lead in the first half of the fourth. Things got even tighter in the second half of the fourth as Pilot Rock fouled in the back court and Irrigon was pressured on the inbounds. Irrigon led 33-27 with 2:46 to go in the game. Pilot Rock scored four points over the next couple minutes cutting the Knights lead to one. The final 15 seconds of the game played out in the Knights end as Pilot Rock players missed several shots. As the last shot missed a Knight grabbed the rebound and Adrian Romero of the Knights appeared to be the first player to react to the fact they had won. The Irrigon crowd lept to their feet, cheering, yelling and crying. There was even one fan in the Irrigon section who held their head in shock and disbelief that the team had won it.
As the Irrigon Knights walked the length of the court back to their bench it began to sink in what they had accomplished. Some players hugged, for others there were handshakes and high fives. By the time they had made it to the bench the emotions were running high with smiles and conversations between the victors.
Details on the awards ceremony which followed the game will be posted in a separate article.
The win "Feels great." for sophomore player of the year Anthony Landeros. "They're a great team and we just had to come out and play. They were coming for us so we just had to play hard. It does feel good."
Francisco Nunes said that, "It feels amazing. This is what we've always wanted. It feels great."
"It feels great." Said Jose Romero. "Pilot Rock is a great team. I want to give a shout out to them."
Freshman Fredy Vera said, "It feels good coming from the bench. I learn alot from the other players.
Coach Jake McElligott had a lot of praise for the team and the quality of play they have done over the season. Next up Irrigon is hosting the first round OSAA 2A state playoff game with the Delphian Dragons on Friday, February 22, 2013 at 6:00PM.
Photos by Terry Aichele