CORVALLIS — South Albany’s rematch with Crater proved to be far more competitive than their first go-round back in December.
But unfortunately for the Rebels, the outcome was the same. Second-seeded Crater pulled away from the seventh-seeded Rebels in the third quarter to post a 65-54 victory on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the OSAA 5A state tournament at Gill Coliseum.
It was the 15th straight victory for the Comets (25-1), who had throttled South Albany 78-55 at the Crater Basketball Invitational in their previous meeting. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Rebels (20-6), who had won 9 of 10 games on a brilliant stretch drive to second place in the Mid-Willamette Conference and the Elite Eight of the state tournament.
South Albany coach Justin Smith said a four-hour bus ride to Southern Oregon impacted the Rebels in the prior matchup. That wasn’t a factor on Wednesday.
“We came more mentally prepared,” Smith said. “And this was a different ballgame if we show up better in the third quarter,” when the Comets outscored South Albany 22-12 to pull away from a 30-30 halftime standoff.
Crater used a 9-0 run in less than a minute midway through the third quarter to turn a 35-35 deadlock into a 44-35 advantage. South Albany then closed within 45-40 at the 3:26 mark, but Crater ran off seven more unanswered points to assume a 52-40 advantage with 1:40 remaining.
“Turnovers, and some long rebounds” that led to easy fast-break baskets were the difference, Miller said. “They are very good in transition and we didn’t get back.”
That 12-point hole was a bridge too far for the Rebels. They drew within six (53-47) on a Jaden Guilford free throw with 5:00 to play but could get no closer.
Guilford led the Rebels with 21 points and four assists. Jake Costello added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Seth Cullison had nine points, eight rebounds and three steals.
A see-saw first half featuring six lead changes and five ties ended in a 30-30 tie. Crater led by as many as seven (24-17) before the Rebels unleashed an 11-0 run to surge ahead 28-24 with 1:55 remaining on back-to-back Costello 3-pointers.
However, the Comets responded with a 6-2 run of their own and tied the game 30-30 on two Jayden Vranes free throws with 2.1 seconds left.
Costello and Guilford had 10 points apiece in the first half to lead the Rebels.
South Albany now plays Mt. View at 10:45 a.m. Thursday in the fourth-place semifinals. They did not meet in the regular season.
"We need to be sure we’re prepared for Thursday,” Miller said. “We really want to get a trophy. It’s disappointing, because we feel we’re capable of winning the state championship.
“We’ve got great kids, who had a lot of effort. The shots just didn’t fall the way we wanted them to and in that third quarter we just didn’t play the way we wanted to.”