Willamina handed the Taft High boys and girls basketball teams Coastal Range League home losses Friday.
The loss all but eliminated the Taft boys from the playoffs.
“Early in the season, I honestly believed this team was in a position to contend for the league’s top spot, but injuries, lack of consistent play, confidence, and, at times a shortage of commitment, have all led to under-performance,” first-year Coach Andy Morgan said.
The Bulldogs defeated the Tigers 42-29 in boys play to improve to 10-8 overall and 2-6 in league play, while Taft fell to 6-12, 1-7.
Senior Ray Darrington led the Tigers with six points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Senior Tyee Fisher, sophomore Fco Ramos and freshman Kaden Hindman scored five points each for Taft, while Fisher added five rebounds and three assists.
The Taft girls fell to 2-16 overall and 0-8 in conference play with their 15th straight defeat, 64-29.
The third-place Willamina girls improved to 12-7, 4-4.
Details from the girls game were not reported.
The Tigers return to the court Tuesday at home in league play against Warrenton.
Willamina 42, Taft 29
Taft 7 8 7 7 — 29
Willamina 8 12 10 12 — 42
Boys Coach Andy Morgan’s comments:
“The Tiger boys played the early game, as the Coastal Range League moves into the second half of its inaugural season. The lady squads will get the feature slot for the remainder of the season.
“Preparing earlier in the day, the Tiger boys went into the contest needing a win to end a two-game skid and give them a chance at a league playoff opportunity. Now defeated twice by three of the four league opponents, the Tigers will need a near miracle to make the playoffs. While the math allows a chance, the door is nearly shut on the chance of extra basketball for the team.
“Early in the season, I honestly believed this team was in a position to contend for the league’s top spot, but injuries, lack of consistent play, confidence, and, at times a shortage of commitment, have all led to under-performance.
“As a coach, I shoulder some, or much, of the responsibility. I do not feel like I had this group properly prepared for a win against Willamina. Our lineup was, once again, dictated by injuries and illness. Our practices look something like an episode of M*A*S*H, and we haven’t had three consecutive practices in which all of the available players have attended. Some of the absences have been regarded as necessary, while some have not.
“As a coach, I need to be determined to set a standard of commitment, and I must expect every member of the team to develop as a leader. We have experienced moments of greatness, but have suffered as much. The staff has spoken of conviction and fearlessness, and I do not yet feel like this has become the threads that make up the fabric of this program. We are still looking for a vocal leader — one whose words are respected, while the unspoken and uncompromising work ethic becomes a habit that becomes the norm rather than the exception.
“As for the game, the Bulldogs of Willamina showed something we had not yet faced much of this year — a zone defense. Myself, and the other Taft coaches, had expected a zone during the preseason. With a formidable post in Darrington, and able backups like Tyee Fisher, William Brooks and Clay Nelson, we had expected teams to make us prove ourselves from distance, rather than the paint.
“Surprisingly, every team has matched up, playing us pretty straight-up, paying little attention to our sizable advantage in the middle. As a result, Darrington has averaged a double-double, nearly adding 20 in each category of points and rebounds. The Bulldogs had a new plan, after our first meeting came down to missed Tiger free throws, an overtime period, and an eventual win for the host Bulldogs. This matchup became a bit uncomfortable for the Tigers, having to adjust to the defense.
“Eventually adjusting to the Willamina zone, the Tigers ended the game with 11 assists — equaling the total of the past two games. This was an emphasis for the Tigers, and junior Jordan Hall was determined to set the stage early, passing the ball to the interior, trusting the teammates in the middle. Unfortunately, Taft couldn’t find the net, bouncing balls off of the rim all night long.
“There were seven Tigers with points, but none produced double-digit numbers — the team never scoring more than eight in a period. Our team goal was to hold the Bulldogs to less than 10 in each frame, but we were able to reach this goal in only the first period with eight points to open the contest. The second period was more productive for Willamina, adding 12, as the home team only managed eight, for a halftime score of 20-15, advantage Bulldogs.
“Clay Nelson, earning a start, played hard and scored two in the first period, finishing the game with a steal, two rebounds and a single turnover. Aside from solid play, freshman Kaden Hindman contributed big minutes for the Tigers, scoring five points, a steal, an assist and a rebound. The Tigers, as a team, were better at sharing the ball, and solid on defense, but the rebounding was disappointing, as was the overall scoring.
“We were just not selective enough, not aggressive in the lanes, and could not convert on most shots. It was a terrible night to go so cold from the floor, as the 42 points allowed were right within our game plan.
“As a team, we are going to look forward to hosting Warrenton on Tuesday. The young members of the team are committed to sending away the seniors on a positive note, while the oldest members of the team will remain dedicated to leaving this young program with opportunity, and optimism for the future.
“We know we have dug ourselves a hole, and we will stay committed to stay the course and continue to learn, grow and lead the Tigers into the future.”
Ray Darrington 6, Fco Ramos 5, Tyee Fisher 5, Kaden Hindman 5
Ray Darrington 7, Tyee Fisher 5, William Brooks 4
Trenton Fisher 3, Tyee Fisher 3
Ray Darrington 3
Jordan Hall 2