North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
CORVALLIS — It would have been an unlikely way to win.
Certainly, it was a different way to lose.
The second-seeded Phoenix boys basketball team — confronted with a Central defense that all but eliminated two of the Pirates' biggest stars from the scoring picture — got some amazing contributions from role players but came up just short in a 49-47 loss to the top-seeded Panthers in the Class 4A state championship at Gill Coliseum on Saturday night.
Using what Central boys head coach Bob McBeth called an inverted, trapping, triangle-and-two defense, the Panthers (26-1) held Dungannon (who scored 43 points the night before) to two points on 1-for-8 shooting and Alex Young to seven points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Despite that, the Pirates (25-6), the defending champions, nearly stole the show as it went down to the wire.
Central's Tanner Omlid, who finished with a game-high 27 points, scored with 3.2 seconds left to give his team the 49-47 advantage.
Young then got off two heaves from around half court before the final seconds faded away: On the first he was fouled before the release, and on the second, the ball came up short of the rim, igniting an emotional eruption from the Panther faithful.
Phoenix's other players came up huge: Senior post Tim Keith went to work in the paint with 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting (he was the recipient of several of Young's seven assists); senior guard Calvin Loper turned in 12 points (including two 3-pointers) and four assists; and sophomore guard Tyson Morris added eight points.
“We kind of figured they would try to do something with Tyler and Alex since they have had big games, but I'm speechless right now,” Loper said.
Loper added that he and others were more than up for the task of taking on elevated offensive roles: “I was told to catch and shoot when I'm open and take my shots when I'm ready to shoot.”
He and some others got chances on the offensive end and succeeded. But Young and Dungannon, the school's top two all-time scorers? Not so much.
And that, of course, was by design.
“Phoenix has shooters and we were just gonna live as long as we could with that and then come trap Dungannon and Young whenever they got it with our top guys,” McBeth said. “So they found ways to score in it, but we knew as long as it wasn't their studs scoring, we were OK. So we rolled the dice, rolled the dice and then down the stretch went to our straight man-to-man that we've worked on all year. By that time, those two were frustrated and didn't get good looks.”
Meanwhile, Omlid — a 6-foot-4 wing who has signed to play at Army — did his thing. He was 11 of 23 from the field and 5 of 10 at the free-throw line but saved his best for last with nine fourth-quarter points. He added 11 rebounds, three assists and three blocks for Central, which was making its third appearance in the championship contest in the last four years.
“We were just gonna ride him,” McBeth said of Omlid. “We knew he'd hit some shots eventually and he did.”
The Pirates were aiming to become the first two-time 4A state winners since reclassification in 2007.
Phoenix led 22-21 at halftime. The contest was even at 38 entering the final eight minutes.
“It's a great title game,” Phoenix head coach Glenn Johannes said. “It was a heavyweight fight between two great teams that played two very good defenses. Things didn't go our way but I'm proud of the boys. And all these seniors deserve it and I'm really happy for them.”
Just like in 2011, the Pirates finished in second place in the Skyline Conference this season before uncorking their best stuff in quarterfinal and semifinal wins. Phoenix had set a modest goal of gaining some hardware entering the tournament but ended up doing much more, earning their third straight appearance in the state semifinals.
The Pirates managed just 4 of 21 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.
Young finished with seven rebounds and two steals.
“It's tough, but we played a great game,” Tim Keith said. “It's hard when it comes down to the last shot. We've been playing since the sixth grade together so we're like a family.”
Phoenix had nine seniors on the roster.
“You know, I'm just happy for the boys,” Johannes said. “Hopefully they see tomorrow what they've done and what they've accomplished.”
CENTRAL (49) — Omlid 11-23 5-10 27, Bal 3-9 0-0 6, King 2-3 0-0 5, Cutsforth 2-3 0-0 4, Hampton 2-3 0-0 4, Lindley 1-1 1-1 3, Waddell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 21-42 6-11 49.
PHOENIX (47) — Keith 8-9 0-0 16, Loper 4-9 2-2 12, Morris 3-11 0-0 8, Young 3-8 1-1 7, Dungannon 1-8 0-0 2; Richardson 0-0 2-2 2, Carpenter 0-0 0-0 0, Brown 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-47 5-5 47.
Central 10 11 17 11 — 49
Phoenix 10 12 16 9 — 47
3-point goals — Central 1-5 (King 1-1, Bal 0-2, Omlid 0-2), Phoenix 4-21 (Loper 2-5, Morris 2-9, Dungannon 0-6, Young 0-1). Rebounds — Central 28 (Omlid 11), Phoenix 25 (Young 7). Assists — Central 9 (Omlid 3, Hampton 3), Phoenix 11 (Young 6). Total fouls — Central 12, Phoenix 14.
Reach reporter Dan Jones at sports 541-776-4499, or e-mail email@example.com