After they were unable to play for one month, you would’ve thought that the Neah-Kah-Nie High Pirates boys basketball team would’ve been a little rusty while playing their first Northwest League game on Tuesday versus the Portland Christian Royals.
That certainly wasn’t the case though as the No. 15 ranked Pirates (1-0 NWL, 3-0 overall) appeared to be in midseason form as they steamrolled the Royals (1-3 NWL, 1-12 overall) 83-53 Jan. 4 at Portland Christian High School.
The Pirates, guided by second-year Coach Erick White, displayed a potent offensive attack, led by sophomore Anthony Allen, whose team-high 16 points led six players with double figure scoring.
“I was worried about the long layoff and it kind of felt like the opening game of the season again,” said White. “We’ve only played two games and we’ve only had four practices in the last month. I thought we would have first game jitters all over again. We had a little bit at the beginning, but we snapped out of it and then we just started playing good basketball. I’m very proud of all the kids for the great performance that they all had and it was definitely and lot of fun.”
Because of COVID-19 safety and health protocols and some weather related situations too, the Pirates had many games canceled and their last game was Dec. 4 (a 46-41 win over Delphian). The Pirates seemed to be thrilled to be back on the hardwood floor as they outplayed the Royals in every aspect of the game, while outrunning them, outrebounding them and outhustling Portland Christian.
Neah-Kah-Nie trailed early at 6-0, but they quickly came back. After an 8-8 deadlock, junior wing Eddie Loza (13 pts.) fired in a three-point long range field goal putting Neah-Kah-Nie up 11-10 and the Pirates never trailed again in the contest.
“We played pretty well and I’m happy we won,” said Loza. “We’ve been going hard at it in practice and we came out and played well and I’m pretty happy that we won by a lot. It was a pretty easy game and it give’s us some momentum after being off for a month.
The Pirates took control of the momentum from that point and a rebound and putback shot by freshman Ethan Hanson (15 pts.) helped Neah-Kah-Nie take a 17-10 advantage after the first quarter. The Pirates upped the lead to double digits when junior Jacobee Wilkinson (three pts.) sank two free throws, making it 26-15 with 2:59 left in the second quarter.
An 8-2 Pirates run, capped by a jumper in the land by senior wing Matthew Erickson (14 pts.), extended the margin to 34-17. Erickson is one of four Pirate seniors along with Matthew Spellman, Joseph Vega and Spider Hyde. Spellman is a truly remarkable and inspirational athlete, who has played on the Pirates basketball team for four years, despite the fact that he has cerebral palsy.
“I didn’t score, but I had fun when I was out on the court and there was a lot of energy during the game,” said Spellman. “I started playing when I was younger and it was lot of work for me to get up to the level to play with these guys.”
“Matthew Spellman is a good hard, working and impressive player and he’s a good shooter and he’s a great guy in general and he’s a very valuable part of our team,” said Coach White.
The teams traded points for the remainder of the quarter and junior Espen White’s (10 pts.) two free throws, helped the Pirates build a 40-23 halftime lead. The Pirates were able to build a big lead by utilizing a tough and aggressive zone defense, while creating turnovers and then scoring a number of layups on fast break scoring opportunities.
The Pirates displayed solid perimeter shooting too and a three-pointer by Allen midway through the third helped put Neah-Kah-Nie up 46-28, forcing a PC timeout with 4:13 left in the quarter.
“It was good to come out here and play again and it’s always nice to start our league schedule with a win,” said Allen. “We have a lot of potential and I think our team might be a contender for the Northwest League title this year, which would be really nice for sure. We’ve been playing a lot during the break and so this was like another day in the office for us. We played our best and that’s why we won.”
An Erickson three from the corner extend the lead to 51-31 with 2:45 left in the third and the Pirates led 58-39 after three. The Pirates just continued have a dominating performance in the fourth as they outscored the Royals 22-14 to get the lopsided 30-point margin of victory.
Neah-Kah-Nie plays its next Class 2A Northwest League game Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Mannahouse Christian Academy (3-0 NWL, 9-2 overall) in Portland, followed by a 7 p.m. home game Wednesday versus the Gaston Greyhounds (0-4 NWL, 0-7) at Neah-Kah-Nie High School.