ASTORIA - Ilwaco led all but 15 seconds of the first three periods, but when diminutive guard Alex Eterno went off for nine of his 14 points to begin the final period, the Fishermen fell behind by six tallies and never recovered as they dropped a 52-48 non-league game at Astoria Wednesday to tip off the season for both teams.
The Fishermen front line of Ryan Blake, Ryan Rodenbaugh, and Matt Kaino accounted for 41 points and a total of 24 boards and the trio were instrumental in Ilwaco fashioning a 28-17 lead just before intermission. Ilwaco's execution and interior passing, coupled with an effective 2-3 zone defense were keys in compiling the double-digit advantage and in maintaining control of the contest throughout the first 16 minutes.
The second half was a different story as Astoria's depth and quickness began to wear on the relatively inexperienced Ilwaco quintet. The home team hit on three of their five three-point field goals in the third quarter. Their frenetic full-court defense helped them to chip away at the Fishermen's lead until Astoria took the scoring edge 39-38 with 11 seconds to play going into the final stanza. Only freshman Karl Oman and Rodenbaugh were able to connect on field goals in the third period for Ilwaco.
Eterno hit a "three" and three field goals in the first three minutes of the final frame, but Oman answered with a pair of foul shots. Blake fed Rodenbaugh for one bucket and then Kaino and Rodenbaugh took turns getting the basketball inside to Blake for easy baskets to make the score 50-46 after a Jordan Poyer put-back found the mark for Astoria at the 3:48 juncture of the contest.
Astoria went into a stall when leading scorer and ball hawk Poyer went to the bench with the fourth foul called on him. Jack Whealdon managed three steals down the stretch, but only an Oman driving layup tickled the twine as the Fishermen failed to find the open man in the late going against Astoria's stifling defense.
Coach Paul Jarrett said, "We prepared for 12 days for Astoria's pressure defense and for the most part we did a good job against it, but several mental lapses did us in. I believe in time we can adjust to handling that kind of defense. We are already playing much better than we did at this time a year ago."
The loss spoiled Ryan Blake's finest game to date, as the senior dropped in 14 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and blocked five shots in impressive fashion. "I feel we are playing much better already this season than we did last year, even though we lost," he said. Blake picked up three first-half fouls, but was able to stay on the court as he didn't commit another infraction the entire second half.
Kaino went for 17 points to top all scorers and the senior captain added four assists in leading the Ilwaco offense. Rodenbaugh in his first varsity action recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 caroms and also dished out a pair of assists. Oman added six points, three rebounds, three steals, and three assists as the fledgling point guard received baptism by fire against the swarming Astoria full-court man-to-man pressure.
Ilwaco's 2-3 zone defense limited Astoria to only eight field goals in 28 attempts in the first half (29 percent) as they threw up enough bricks to match the nick name of their gym, "the Brick House." However, the Oregon squad heated up in the second half as they converted on 12 of 21 tries for 57 percent. They finished by shooting 20-49 (41 percent) and Ilwaco was 16 of 40 from the field for an even 40 percent efficiency.
The Fishermen out-rebounded Astoria 37 to 27, but one telling statistic was Ilwaco's 23 turnovers to 12 for Astoria. The Fishermen made 15 of 23 free throws (65 percent) and Astoria was 8 of 16 from the line for 50 percent. The home team was whistled for 19 fouls, while Ilwaco was whistled on 18 occasions.
"We were tentative at times and just didn't execute in key stretches in the second half," Jarrett concluded. "Overall though, I was pleased with our effort, but this game showed the guys we still have some things to work on to get better."
The Fishermen lost the JV contest 63-22 as Patrick Whealdon led Ilwaco with five points.
Ilwaco 11 17 10 10 --48
Astoria 9 11 19 13 --52
Ilwaco-Matt Kaino 17, Ryan Blake 14, Ryan Rodenbaugh 10, Karl Oman 6, Jack Whealdon 1, Jordan DeSimone
Astoria-Alex Eterno 14, Jordan Poyer 14, Hans Lund 7, Max Johnson 7, Chris Dalton 6, Dane Lund 3, Jake Hatcher 1