TOLEDO — The Toledo boys basketball team was a single shot away from winning their 2020 Toledo Holiday Tournament.
The Boomers defeated Union 81-36 on Thursday, Jan. 2. Toledo lost to Knappa 78-76 on a final-second shot and then beat Waldport 92-24 in the final game of the consolation bracket.
Toledo, fresh off a tournament victory in Reno and their own Toledo Invitational back in December, were seconds away from advancing to the championship round on Saturday, Jan. 4.
But the Boomers ran into a stout Loggers team that forced Toledo into a comeback effort that nearly paid off.
Toledo beat Union by 45 in the previous game, but against Knappa, Toledo never led in the game.
In fact, the Boomers trailed until the final seconds of the game.
“It was obviously a bummer to lose, but to be down 18 and to claw back, I’m happy with that,” Toledo head coach Eddie Townsend said.
Behind the Boomers push in the end, unsurprisingly, Conner Marchant led the way with 35 points, but his composure and leadership on the court was key. His points were needed, of course, but his defensive effort in the second half helped stymie the Loggers.
But it wasn’t all Marchant, even though his shooting stroke and passing ability catches everyone’s eye — Gunner Rothenberger came up big for the Boomers in fourth quarter.
Rothenberger’s effort on defense created multiple steals and easy shots for Toledo, helping the home team fight back for a 33-point fourth quarter; he finished with eight points.
Kellen Howard had 14 points, including four long-distance shots, while Mason McAlpine had nine points, and Coren Loper finished with eight.
The game started off in favor of the Loggers as they jumped out to an early lead. The Boomers were held scoreless on their first handful of possessions before finding some offense.
Things didn’t start heating up until the third quarter. Toledo was back in the game, but only needed to string a few stops together, and they did just that.
The Boomers had cut the deficit to less than 10 points heading into the fourth, but a late flurry by the Loggers pushed the lead back over double digits.
The fourth quarter rolled around and the Boomers still trailed on the scoreboard. Yet, Toledo came out with intent in the final quarter.
Marchant was getting his groove back in the second half. The guard had only six in the third quarter but scored 13 points in the fourth.
Down nine points late in the game, Marchant scored or assisted on more than 10 points to lead the Boomers back to a tied game with less than 10 seconds left.
His point tally included three of the biggest shots of the night.
Marchant was fouled behind the three-point line with only seconds left in the game. He stepped up and knocked them all down to tie the game at 76.
“Well, I’ve missed a lot of free throws this year, and the goal was to hit about 90, but I’m only at about 70,” Marchant said. “So, I was going to the line and I was like ‘oh shoot, this is now or never.’ My buddy came up to me and smiled at me and told me ‘you’re going to hit them.’
“I went up, and I was a little bit nervous, but after I made the first one, it felt good after that.”
Toledo battled all the way back from what started out as a 4-0 deficit early in the first quarter. The Boomers never sulked and never gave up.
Toledo showed its mental fortitude and for a team looking for a state championship, there are going to be bumps in the road on the way to Pendleton, but it’s about how you overcome. The Boomers showed they have that in their DNA.
Despite the Knappa Loggers hitting a game-winning jump shot with less than five seconds in the game, the Boomers have much to be proud of.
All heads now turn to the league season, where the Boomers look to really make some noise.
Check out highlights from the game at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXSwLF0BOHA&feature=youtu.be.