The battle between the Neah-Kah-Nie Pirates and the Nestucca Bobcats Thursday wasn’t decided until a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left.
The Pirates emerged as the victors, thanks to Max Halverson sinking two free throws to grab a 40-35 Northwest League victory.
Halverson, who led all scorers with 16 points Thursday, 11 points in the first quarter where he helped the Pirates build a 15-10 advantage over the Bobcats. After he was fouled attempting a three-point shot with 13 seconds left in the quarter, he hit all three shots.
Nestucca’s Andrew Morgan tied the game at 17-all with a three-point shot with 1:39 left, but Neah-Kah-Nie came back to hold a 19-17 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, the Pirates built up a 30-19 before going cold.
That helped the Bobcats rally with a 12-0 run that helped Darrington give the team a 31-30 lead with 15 seconds left in the quarter. Nestucca had outscored the Pirates by a 14-11 margin in the quarter – almost all of those points coming in the final three and a half minutes.
Halverson hit his third three-pointer of the night to briefly give the Pirates the lead again with seven minutes left, but Ray Darrington tied it up again at 33-33.
Chase Dorsey helped the Pirates break away with a free throw and a three-point basket to give the hosts a 37-33 edge with just under five minutes left.
Still, Adrien Morgan helped Nestucca close the gap with 4:34 left to just 37-35.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, those would be the team’s final points of the game.
Simon Elinsky hit a free throw with one minute left to give the Pirates a three-point lead, setting Halverson up to ice the win at the free throw line about 40 seconds later.
The victory improved the Pirates record in the Northwest League to 1-4 (4-7 overall), the Bobcats went to 3-7 for the season and 1-4 in the NWL. Both teams are tied for seventh in the 10-team league.
The Pirates had six other players score, led vy Colby Hixson’s seven points. Elinsky, Willie Davidson and Dorsey each added four points. Sam Holm put in three, followed by Vince Igitol with two.
Cole Strober led the Bobcats with 13 points, while Darrington added eight and Adrien Morgan put in six. Mitchell Richwine scored three points with a three-pointer in the third quarter, while Ben Hurliman added two.
According to Neah-Kah-Nie coach Tim Gienger, the Pirates focused on defense to pull out the first league home win of the season.
“The kids played a good game. We had a tough loss the other night against Faith Bible. We talked about cleaning up some small mistakes that cost us that game.
“We kept our composure tonight in a pretty close ball game and we ended up on the winning side,” Gienger said. “It’s good for the kids to see the progress that we are making.”
The Pirates will be on the road Saturday for a 5:30 p.m. game against second-ranked Life Christian (3-0 in the NWL and 9-1 overall).
Nestucca travels to Knappa Saturday for a 3 p.m. game against the 6-0 Loggers who are also ranked sixth among the 2A boys basketball teams.