The momentum changed hands numerous times in Friday’s second half.
But when it counted, South Albany High made the plays and took control down the stretch.
The host RedHawks used a 9-0 run in the final four minutes of the game to hold off rival West Albany, 59-56, in a Mid-Willamette Conference boys basketball game.
Sophomore wing Isaiah Gilliam scored five of South’s final 10 points in the final 3:38, including three of four free throws in the last 19 seconds to keep his team in front.
After a tight first half, South (9-1, 2-1) turned up the pressure and gained a big advantage quickly.
West (2-10, 0-4) had 16 turnovers in the second half, including 10 in the third quarter. The RedHawks took advantage with a 13-0 run on two 3-pointers by Arthur Benjamin Mercado, another by Kenyon McGlothan and four points by Gilliam.
“We really picked up the energy in the last couple quarters and minutes,” Gilliam said. “I really appreciate my team. They did a great job.”
Bulldogs coach Derek Duman said his team knew the defensive pressure was coming but still didn’t handle it well. They had double the turnovers in the second half as the first, and their final total of 24 was double South’s 12.
“Our point guard (Koby Ruiz) got in foul trouble, which definitely hurt us,” Duman said. “So we asked guys to step in and have to make those plays and unfortunately we didn’t as many times as we needed to. If we eliminate some of those turnovers I think we’re on the right side of today’s game.”
Sam Myers had 16 points and McGlothan 14 to lead South, which has now won four straight games since its lone defeat, 80-61 at Silverton on Dec. 18.
Gilliam added 11 points and Mercado eight for the RedHawks.
West’s Luke Killinger had a game-high 19 points. TJ Zimmerman chipped in 14 and Ruiz 12 for the Bulldogs.
West trailed 45-42 after three when the visitors were able to score the last seven points of the period. They added the first five of the fourth on a Mclain Timm layin and a Ruiz 3-pointer.
Later, Timm’s transition basket and Zimmerman’s short jumper off a Killinger assist had the Bulldogs in a four-point lead.
The teams traded two-point baskets before South went on its decisive run.
Gilliam missed the front end of a 1-and-1 foul shot opportunity with 1:46 left, but West followed with a third turnover in as many possessions.
Gilliam hit two free throws with 19 seconds left to cap a 9-0 run to give his team a five-point advantage before Killinger closed the gap with his third 3-pointer of the contest.
Gilliam made one of two at the foul line with 8.8 seconds remaining for a three-point advantage.
The RedHawks fouled West’s Austin Stanaway to avoid a potential game-tying shot. Stanaway missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1.5 seconds left and South recovered the rebound to clinch the victory.
“It’s good to see that because there isn’t a kid that played was a starter last year. So we’re still learning being in close games and we haven’t been in very many this year,” RedHawks coach Justin Smith said. “So to see them step up and make the plays was encouraging.”
Gilliam said he’s been in many late-game situations as he was Friday, though not all of them turned out the way he hoped. He was happy to walk away with a positive outcome.
Smith said his team has struggled with maintaining consistent play, and that reached up and grabbed the RedHawks again Friday.
“I only thought we played well during one stretch of the game and struggled the rest,” Smith said. “But it was nice to finish it off the way that we did.”
West jumped out to a 14-6 lead, but two McGlothan 3-pointers late in the first quarter helped South go in front 15-14 after one.
The Bulldogs stretched out to a 29-24 lead late in the second period, but the RedHawks rallied and managed to trail by just one at the break.