Crater sophomore Nate Bittle came one blocked shot shy of equaling a state tournament record but his boys basketball team was blocked from returning to the Class 5A state semifinal round by a veteran Silverton performance during a 57-39 setback Wednesday at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis.
Bittle’s near-record outing proved to be the highlight in an otherwise tough quarterfinals showing against the third-seeded Foxes, who returned a host of players from last year’s squad that placed fourth despite entering as the No. 1 team. The 6-foot-10 wing totaled 17 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots before fouling out with 4 minutes, 10 seconds remaining.
“Nate was aggressive and consistent,” said Crater head coach Chris Schmerbach. “The lights were on him again and he did not back down one bit. He gave us a shot to get back into it.”
“Our other guys fought really hard, too,” added the coach, “we just didn’t make shots. We also had 11 offensive fouls called on us to take away possessions and that didn’t help us.”
Bittle’s eight blocks stand as the 5A tournament record, eclipsing the old record of six shared by North Eugene’s Brian Conklin (2008 vs. Hermiston) and Mountain View’s Ryan Fisher (2010 vs. Glencoe).
The all-classification record of nine is shared by five players, including local standout Marty Maurer, who had nine blocks against Weston-McEwen at the 2A level in 1997 for Cascade Christian.
With the loss, sixth-seeded Crater (17-9) fell into the consolation bracket and will face No. 10 Pendleton at 10:45 this morning in a consolation semifinal. The Buckaroos (17-6) ran into a buzzsaw in No. 2 Wilsonville late Wednesday night.
“We’re excited about our opportunity tomorrow,” said Schmerbach, whose team placed fifth last year. “The kids took it tough — they don’t like to lose or want to lose — but they’re competitors and we’re going to try to go win tomorrow and try to win the consolation bracket. There haven’t been a lot of trophies brought home at Crater and we want to do that.”
Junior point guard Jayden Vranes, the Comets’ only returning starter with Bittle, managed five points and six assists but was 2-for-10 from the field with four turnovers. Senior Nathan Horton and sophomore Hunter Chubb also added five points apiece, with Chubb pulling in five rebounds.
Bittle’s 3-pointer opened the scoring against Silverton (24-2), but the Foxes soon took control using scoring surges that put the Comets on their heels. It was 6-all when Silverton went on a 9-0 run to ensure a 15-11 edge through one quarter.
The second quarter proved to be the Comets’ ultimate undoing, with Silverton starting the frame with a 5-0 run and later adding an 8-0 run to build a 34-17 cushion at halftime. The Foxes were a remarkable 7-for-10 from 3-point range in the opening half — Crater was 7-for-18 overall — and capitalized on 10 turnovers by the Comets to gain extra possessions.
“We went to the zone trying to really stand on the 3-point line,” said Schmerbach, “and we lost some shooters a couple times and they also hit a couple tough ones with guys in their face.”
Junior point guard David Gonzalez led Silverton with 16 points, four assists and three rebounds, while junior Grant Dunn was 3-for-6 from beyond the arc and finished with 12 points and senior Levi Nielsen had 10 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
The Foxes were 12-for-24 from the field overall in the first half, and finished 17-for-49 for the game and 8-for-17 from 3-point range with only six turnovers — four by Gonzalez — compared to Crater’s 16.
“They just executed at a high level,” said Schmerbach. “They’re an older, disciplined team and it showed. I told our guys after the game that’s the level of discipline and execution you have to have to win at the state tournament.”
“We can learn some lessons from that game not only for tomorrow but for the future,” he added. “If you want to compete with the highest level in the state, you have to stay disciplined in your approach both on the offensive and defensive end.”
Nate Bittle 7-17 1-1 17, Nathan Horton 2-4 0-0 5, Hunter Chubb 2-7 0-2 5, Jayden Vranes 2-10 1-2 5, Kruger Edwards 1-2 1-2 3, Blake Eaton 1-1 0-1 2, Nathan Johnson 1-1 0-0 2, Garrett Dance 0-0 0-0 0, Trevor Jaasko 0-0 0-0 0, Braydon Ray 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 16-42 3-8 39.
David Gonzales 6-14 2-2 16, Grant Dunn 3-6 3-4 12, Levi Nielsen 3-7 4-6 10, Josiah Roth 2-8 4-5 8, Drake Ulven 2-3 0-0 6, Jonah Downey 1-10 2-2 5, Tashaun Treat 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan McCarty 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-49 15-19 57.
3-point goals—Crater 4-17 (Nate Bittle 2-6, Hunter Chubb 1-4, Nathan Horton 1-3, Jayden Vranes 0-4), Silverton 8-17 (Grant Dunn 3-6, David Gonzales 2-5, Drake Ulven 2-3, Jonah Downey 1-3). Fouled out—Crater-Nate Bittle, Silverton-None. Rebounds—Crater 31 (Nate Bittle 13), Silverton 29 (Josiah Roth 9, Levi Nielsen 9). Assists—Crater 9 (Jayden Vranes 6), Silverton 13 (David Gonzales 4). Total fouls—Crater 18, Silverton 14. Technical fouls—Crater bench.