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BRUINS TAME TIGERS, ADVANCE TO STATE TOURNAMENT

Senior Nick Taresh (12) whips the ball to the outside after penetrating the lane and drawing numerous Junction City defenders to the middle in the Bruins' 62-54 playoff win Saturday night.  (The Pilot/Jef Hatch).
Senior Nick Taresh (12) whips the ball to the outside after penetrating the lane and drawing numerous Junction City defenders to the middle in the Bruins' 62-54 playoff win Saturday night. (The Pilot/Jef Hatch).

By Josh Bronson

Pilot staff writer

With a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from last year's trip to state, the Bruins will be heading back to the state tournament at Gill Coliseum.

After trailing for the entire first half and most of the third quarter of Saturday's second round playoff game against the Junction City Tigers, the Bruins took control of the game early on in the fourth and never looked back as they secured a 62-54 win over the Tigers in a packed CFCU Pavilion.

For the second year in a row, the Brookings-Harbor High School boys' basketball team used a dramatic victory in the second round of the OSAA playoffs to advance to the state tournament.

But after going two-and-out at the state tournament last year, the Bruins have their sights set on something a little more lofty – a state championship.

"We have a chip on our shoulder from last year," senior Nick Taresh said. "We're going to give it all we got and we're going to try and outwork everybody there."

Today (March 12) the Bruins will open tournament play at Gill Coliseum at 3:15 p.m. against the Hidden Valley Mustangs.

The Bruins have already defeated the Mustangs twice this year – a 47-37 win at home and a 53-36 victory at a tournament in Yreka, Calif.

Saturday night, the Bruins (21-2) used their depth and athleticism to wear down the Tigers (22-4), who usually only play with a six man rotation.

"Our goal was to hang with them for three quarters and then wear them down," Assistant Coach Jon Young said. "I thought our kids played hard all game and our depth just wore them out."

In a very physical first half, Junction City's offense was working as planned as the Tigers used a lot of backdoor cuts to get open layups.

The Tigers led by as many as five points in the opening quarter, but couldn't pull away as the Bruins continued to claw their way back into the game time and time again.

Kenton Bansemer put back an offensive rebound just before the buzzer to pull the Bruins within three, 18-15, after the first quarter.

The second quarter was even closer than the first, as the Tigers never led by more than four points before the Bruins hit another big shot to pull within a basket.

A big 3-pointer from the corner by Michael Wood tied the game up for the sixth time in the half at 32-32 with just one minute left before the Tigers' Blair Wheadon hit a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up 34-32 heading into halftime.

"Coming into this game, we knew what we had to do," junior Fred Corpening said. "We didn't do it in the first half, but then we came out strong in the second and got it done."

Junction City came out of the locker room fresh in the third quarter and Aaron Lighty and Andrew Martin put together back-to-back buckets to give the Tigers a 38-32 advantage.

But the Bruins rallied once again and went on an 8-0 run, capped off by a driving layup by Chase Bansemer to give the Bruins their first lead of the game, 40-38, with 4:50 left to play in the third.

The Tigers quickly regained the lead and held it for the rest of the quarter until Nick Taresh hit a short jumper with just 22 seconds left in the quarter to tie the game at 46-46, where it remained until the end of the quarter.

As has been the case all year, the Bruins took control of the game in the fourth quarter and used their fresh players to push the tempo in their favor.

"We knew we would make our move in the fourth quarter," Coach Bryan Wood said. "We got up, used our composure, didn't fold and made some clutch free throws."

Early in the fourth quarter, Corpening pulled down a long rebound, took the ball the length of the floor and converted a tough layup to give the Bruins a 48-46 lead.

For the rest of the game, the Bruins played extremely smart basketball and never let the Tigers back in the game.

"At the start of the fourth quarter, we had that feeling," Chase Bansemer said. "That feeling that we were going to win. We were able to keep it together, move the ball well and come up with some big defensive stops."

In a two-minute span late in the fourth quarter, Taresh scored six straight points to put the game out of reach for the Tigers and give the Bruins a 56-49 lead with just 1:25 left to play.

The Bruins went 4-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute of play and Wood put the nail in the coffin with a steal and layup with just eight second left in regulation to give the Bruins the 62-54 win.

"It was just a great team effort," Taresh said. "We played with a lot of intensity and we just wanted it more."

Chase Bansemer led the Bruins with 16 points on the night but, more importantly, played tight defense on Wheadon all night, only allowing him to take seven shots the entire game.

Twin brother Kenton had another big game as he scored 14 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Bruins.

Taresh had a terrific all around night as he added 12 points and Corpening had nine points, four rebounds a team-high five assists.

Wood added five points for the Bruins and AJ Weber chipped in four and Charles Chambers added two.

Garrett Long also gave the Bruins quality minutes off the bench and back-up point guard Michael Holmes played great defense when Chase Bansemer got in foul trouble late in the game.

Wheadon led the Tigers with 14 points, followed by Cody Garner with 12, Tyler Turner with 11, Martin with nine and Lighty had eight points to go with a game-high 12 rebounds.

The Tigers also had a tremendous night from the free-throw line as they drained 20 of 23 attempts from the line.

In the second half, the Bruins held the Tigers to just 5-for-17 from the field for 29.4 percent shooting.

The Bruins also had a great night handling the ball as they limited their turnovers and committed only three turnovers in the first half and none in the second.

With the win, the Bruins extended their win streak to 13 straight games and are unbeaten at home (10-0) and have not lost to a team from Oregon all year (18-0).

"We just want to thank the community for all their support," Coach Wood said. "We live in a great town and we love our kids."

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