EPHRATA — Othello guard Jonathan Garza scored just four points in the second half, but his basket off the glass in overtime helped the Huskies do something they haven’t done since the 2008-09 season.
The Huskies won in The Jungle for the first time in nine years, 77-75.
Garza drove the lane with 15 seconds remaining in overtime for the twisting lay-up off the glass to give Othello (3-5, 3-4 CWAC) a 76-75 lead with time running out. Julian McDonald came up with the huge steal at the other end on the Tigers ensuing possession and was fouled immediately. McDonald made one of two free throws to make it a two-point difference with five seconds left.
Ephrata point guard Trenton Kleyn put up a 30-footer as the horn sounded, but the Huskies ended the drought against the Tigers to start the second half of the season on a high note.
“I’ve been harping on the guys about closing strong. If we finish strong like we did tonight, I like our chances with anybody,” first-year Othello head coach Roman Pruneda said. “The game of basketball is like the game of life, you have to keep yourself level. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low.
“You have to find that balance and that’s what I’m trying to teach these guys.”
The game was anything but balance, but the Huskies bobbed back to the top when they needed to. They scored four points in the third quarter and just three in the final eight minutes of regulation.
Garza buried eight 3-point goals in the first half. Kyler Villarreal had five first-half treys en route to a game-high 30 points and the Huskies took a 59-38 lead at the intermission.
“We’ve never won on this floor since I’ve been playing. We’ve been playing these very same guys ever since we were freshmen. Every year we’ve been battling, every year we’ve come up short. So it feels good to finally get one against them,” said Villarreal, who had eight points in the overtime period, including a big basket inside to give the Huskies a 74-73 lead with 26.4 seconds left.
“On that shot in the last 30 seconds, was all about how we go hard in practice. Everyday I tell my guys to play physical. I push them around, they push me around. It prepares me for when I’m going against Hunter (James) and Josh (Benthem) when they’re beating on you.”
Villarreal posted up on Benthem, the pass came in on the perimeter and the 6-foot-5 Othello senior was hammered on as he went strong to the basket for the go-ahead basket.
Ephrata shooting guard Jakob Oxos finished up with 24 points on the night. The 6-2 senior made two free throws to give the Tigers (5-5, 3-4 CWAC) a 75-74 lead with 26.8 seconds showing. But Garza hit the runner and McDonald made a free throw and the Huskies won a close one in the first game after the Christmas break.
“I don’t think we played with the same passion in the first half as we did in the second. I told the guys at half if we stay within ourselves and do what we do we’d have a shot,” Ephrata coach Brandon Evenson said. “I think we burned too much energy to get there to play at the end. I let the team down. We weren’t as prepared as we should have been and that’s on me. We’ll get better.”
The Tigers outscored the Huskies 28-7 in the second half to fight their way back into it.
Villarreal had a game-high 30 points and Garza added 28 for the Huskies, who made 16 3-pointers on the night. Oxos finished with a team-high 24 points for the Tigers. Hunter had 17 points and 12 rebounds and Josh Benthem added 10 rebounds and 11 points.
Ephrata travels to East Valley on Jan. 2 and Othello hosts Selah on Jan. 2
Othello 31 28 4 3 11 - 77
Ephrata 18 26 14 14 9 - 75
Othello - Patrick Azevedo 6, Jonathan Garza 28, Hilario Murillo 2, Kyler Villarreal 30, James Calzadillas 4, Michael Gutierrez 4, Julian McDonald 3. Totals: 9 13-16 77
Ephrata: Jakob Oxos 24, Caden Blankenship 9, Trenton Kleyn 9, James Hunter 17, Ravi McConnell 5, Joshua Benthem 11. Totals: 28 11-19 75.