What a night for the McKay Royal Scots! They played, what I would call, "The Game of the Year". The Terrorizing Trio ... Andre Tovar's 25 points, Khyler Beach's 31 points, and Israel Garza's 21 points were a key factor in the Royal Scots accomplishing the biggest upset of the year thus far. They defeated the Sprague Olympians, 90 -83, in a double-overtime thriller! Sprague's Teagan Quitoriano, who is 6' 7" and the GVC's top power forward, scored a game high of 38 points, but that wasn't enough on McKay's senior night. Sprague had been ranked number 1 and then 2 in the state.
There was a large crowd on hand and the girls' game had just ended. As I sat there waiting for the boys' game to start, it felt like belonging to a community on the NE side of town. There were many McKay-athlete families and friends supporting the Royal Scots. This game was a "David and Goliath" story. A tall and talented team from the Southwest Hills of Salem, Oregon, had driven across town into the flatland of McKay High School, confident and determined. Sprague had a squad of great shooters ... and man, could they rebound and play defense. There was a significant height difference, McKay's tallest starter was 6' 3", which was probably Sprague's average height.
The entire McKay squad has worked hard all season, including players like junior KR and Taran Trumbly. Taran is a senior that tried out for the first time and made the team. He scored 12 points against North Salem last week. McKay is not a deep team, but the reserves help give the starting five a breather when they need it. Damien Rios, who is the backup point guard has done a remarkable job with the Scots. Levi Beaty who is the tallest player at 6' 4" has made some crucial plays for the Scots down the stretch. During practices all of the team members help their team get better -- all credit to these guys for being part of the victory against Sprague.
Head Coach Dean Sanderson and Assistant Coach Matt Espinoza have done a remarkable job with these boys, not only as basketball players, but more importantly as decent young men that will leave McKay with many life lessons learned and incentives to become decent people. I have no doubt that some of the McKay players will play college basketball, it's just the growth mindset that I've seen throughout their four years.
The coaches have done a remarkable job making adjustments since mid-season. What I have been most impressed with, is how the coaches are using each player's role on the team to help. They are now pressing when they should, and the team defense has jumped up a notch. I've never seen the five seniors as confident and full of desire like I have the last three weeks, especially in the Sprague game - it has been priceless.
When the game started, Khyler Beach, who is normally an excellent free-throw shooter, missed two free shots. Sprague took an early lead and at the end of the first quarter McKay trailed 17 - 22. Jailen Hammer, from Sprague, knocked down two threes and put the Olympians up. McKay was battling and hanging in there, but with Teagan underneath, sometimes double-teaming didn't matter, the kid is big. At halftime McKay trailed, 28 -35. That was okay, they were only 7 points down.
In the second half, Andre Tovar and Khyler Beach's 3-point-shooting frenzy combined with Israel's gifted abilities to squeeze through Sprague's defense, kept the Royal Scots close at the end of the third quarter, but McKay continued to trail, 46 - 54. At the beginning of the fourth quarter Sprague went on an 8 - 0 run to stretch the score at 52 - 64 -- now McKay was down by 12 points. McKay made a few mental errors, but I've watched these boys long enough to know that they never quit, they just come out and fight harder. Head Coach Dean Sanderson called a few time outs and regrouped the team.
With five minutes left in the game, McKay's press was dominating, and fans finally understood why these boys press when they need to. Drioji Joel, Ryan Bangs, Khyler, Andre, and Israel all have amazing quickness and the ability to steal and score within seconds. It happened that night and all of a sudden, McKay was within two points, 66 - 68, with the ball and 28.7 seconds remaining in the game.
After the inbound, Sprague was playing some tight defense and a scramble took place with several passes executed. Khyler Beach ended up with the basketball and drove down the baseline. Time was running out and with 6' 7" Teagan ready to block Khyler's shot, it wasn't going to happen because the pass went to Israel Garza, who scored with a nice floater down the middle and the game went into OT!
In the first overtime it seemed like McKay would put it away taking a 4-point lead, but Teagan Quitoriano had something else in mind when he hit a huge three-point bucket, and then an exchange of free throws from both sides tied it up again. In the second OT, it was great to see Ryan Bangs win the tip against Teagan. Again, solid and intense defense from both teams, desperation shooting, and the coaches pacing the sidelines. Towards the end of the 5-minute-double OT, Teagan again hits a huge three-pointer. McKay's confidence and believing in themselves defied the predictable result with winning the game, 90 - 83!
The crowd stormed the court as the players walked over to the student section and the celebration began at McKay High School. That moment was so special for not only the school itself and the community in the NE side of town, but for five seniors on the team that had played together since the sixth grade. It was a dream come true.
Please go to my blog at www.davidespi.com and just search on the names of Ryan Bangs, Andre Tovar, Drioji Joel, Israel Garza, or Khyler Beach. They all have a remarkable story and have been through adversity overcoming obstacles. They have formed a friendship that will last a lifetime. In the sixth grade they lost a dear friend, Isaac Wayne Arzate. Isaac collapsed at basketball practice one day and eventually died of heart complications. That made a stronger bond with the five boys. Ryan Bangs wears Isaac's number in his honor, which was 31. I'm pretty sure they had Isaac planted in their hearts throughout this important game against an extremely great team like Sprague. RIP Isaac, the boys gotcha.
With two games left in the regular season, McKay's record is 10 - 12 overall, and 5 - 9 in league play. Previous to the win against Sprague, McKay lost some nail-biters, against McMinnville, 75 -77, and McNary, 59 - 60. Because McKay is in a tough conference with highly ranked teams, well, this means they could get a play-in game and a possible playoff birth. OSAA Poll ranks McKay at number 32, Colley Poll ranks McKay at number 31. Sprague is now ranked number 3 in the state. If McKay can stay in the 31 - 34 ranking, it's likely they will play in post season.
Wishing the best for the Royal Scots. The next two games are crucial. I'm hoping to see everyone at the West Albany game on Tuesday. I know it's an away game, however, the boys sure could use our support on an away game. It's a 37-minute drive -- not too far. Go Scots!