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OREGON — Before the season, Mendota boys basketball coach Jan Thompson set several goals for the Trojans.
One was to reach the Oregon Thanksgiving Tournament championship game. The Trojans checked that goal off the list but were unable to take it a step further, falling 59-56 to the host Hawks on Saturday.
“We’re to the point now in Mendota basketball where there’s no question whether we’re going to come out and play hard,” Thompson said. “We played hard. I can tell you there are some tired boys in the locker room, but there are some disappointed boys in the locker room as well.”
The Trojans never led in the game but had several late opportunities to tie or take the lead.
Thompson pointed to two reasons for Mendota falling short — free throws and turnovers.
The Trojans made just 11-of-26 free throws while the Hawks sank 15-of-24, including 11-of-18 in the fourth quarter.
“There are some things that we did that cost us the game,” said Thompson, whose team committed 16 turnovers. “The big one was we were 11-of-26 from the free throw line. That’s disappointing because we tend to be a little bit better of a free throw shooting team than that and we’ve really worked hard the last few weeks on our free throw shooting. … The other thing is we had too many turnovers.
“We’re just going to have to limit the turnovers and become better free throw shooters. They say free throw shooting wins championships and that’s what it came down to tonight.”
Despite the free throw shooting and turnovers, the Trojans made several runs that put them in position to win.
Mendota fell behind 21-10 with 4:02 left in the second quarter but rallied within three points (23-20) at halftime, then faced a 41-31 deficit entering the fourth quarter but pulled within a point at 50-49 with 2:46 left.
“There were two things I felt got us back into the game,” Thompson said. “One was I felt like we finally got everybody crashing and going to the glass. For a while there we didn’t do a very good job rebounding. (Then) we got Austin (O’Sadnick) going hard, we had Trae (Blumhorst) going to the glass and had Evan (Carroll) going to the glass, and those guys really got us going.
“The other thing was we kept tell them, ‘Let’s push. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ We pushed the ball and I think that made a big difference in us getting back into the game.”
Evan Carroll sparked Mendota’s 18-5 fourth quarter run with a 3-pointer with 7:16 left.
Jon Gehm also sank a 3-pointer during the run, Blumhorst scored five points and O’Sadnick added four during the surge that pulled MHS within one at 50-49.
However, the Hawks responded with a basket from Alec Ketter and a 3-pointer by Holden White to go up by six.
The Trojans again pulled within one at 57-56 on a jumper from James Carroll with 8.2 seconds left, but Oregon’s Jessie McKinley Jr. sealed the win with a pair of free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining.
“A couple free throws here or there, a stop here or there or a turnover here or there, that makes a difference in a big game like this,” Thompson said. “We have to do the little things to win the game.”
Notes: The game was briefly paused in the third quarter as the referees moved a group of Oregon students and issued three technical fouls — one to Mendota’s James Carroll, one to Oregon’s Sean Kessler and one to Oregon’s Alex Cain. Kessler also was ejected from the game. … Mendota’s James Carroll and Blumhorst were named to the 10-player all-tournament team.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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