WARRENTON — With two victories in 24 hours, the Warrenton boys are right back in the Coastal Range League title hunt.
Following a pair of league wins over Willamina (46-45) and Taft (43-41), the Warriors improve to 9-5 overall, 2-2 in league play. Rainier and Clatskanie are both 3-0, but both have key games at Warrenton over the next two weeks. And with their huge homecourt advantage, the Warriors (7-1 at home) still have a good shot at catching one or both teams.
The league newcomers from Taft and Willamina certainly found out how strong the Warriors are at home.
In Saturday’s win over Taft, Warrenton was only 8-for-33 on two-point field goals, but they were 7-of-21 from the 3-point line.
As he was all week, Warrenton senior Dalton Knight was the player of the day, scoring 33 of Warrenton’s 43 points. He made 5-of-5 free throws (the rest of the team was 1-for-10), and had five steals defensively.
The night before against Willamina, the Warriors had several Willamina starters in foul trouble before halftime. Namely, Chance Kalawa.
Willamina’s senior post was the best athlete on the floor — but Chance didn’t have much of a chance. He had three fouls by halftime, and picked up his fourth early in the third quarter.
Warrenton still trailed 42-36 in the opening minute of the fourth, but a 3-pointer by Knight and key baskets by Devin Jackson gave the Warriors a 45-42 lead. A free throw by Jalen Maddox with 2.5 seconds left provided the winning point, breaking a 45-45 tie.
“We played good defense both nights and really worked hard on the glass,” said Warrenton coach Nate McBride. “We struggled at times against Taft’s front line at 6-9 and 6-6, but were able to pressure the ball and force 22 turnovers (including 13 steals) that helped curb some of the match-up issues.
“Dalton Knight had a couple of huge games for us,” he added. “He knocked down seven threes on Wednesday, five Friday and six Saturday. But it was his defense and all-around play Saturday that really helped get us there.”
Against Taft, Knight had five steals, two leading to easy baskets, and he was 4-for-4 from the free throw line late in the game to seal the win.
The Warriors won the battle of fouls in both games, committing just seven fouls to Willamina’s 18, and the Warriors shot 15 free throws to six for Taft.
In addition, “Devin Jackson and Ayden Stephens both rebounded extremely well both nights,” McBride said, “and both of them took charges vs. Taft’s big man, which were huge momentum changers.”