EPHRATA — When it came time to step on the gas, the Ephrata Tigers still had plenty in the tank, banging down four 3-point goals on the night en route to a 70-52 run away over East Valley Tuesday night in CWAC action.
Jakob Oxos finished with 19 points, including seven in the final eight minutes when the Tigers (11-9, 9-8 CWAC) scored 25 in the final quarter to put the Red Devils away. Caden Blankenship had the 3-ball going early with two in the first quarter en route to a team-high 20 points.
“We were just more conditioned than they were. When we started pushing the ball, they got tired in the end and that opened up a lot of things down the stretch,” Oxos said. “There’s a lot of keys to the way we play, but we rebounded well tonight and that’s where it starts.
“We’re playing really well as a team at this point in the season. I feel like we can turn it up a notch for the playoffs.”
The game went tied into the fourth quarter at 47-47. Blankenship drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Tigers a little boost and the Ephrata defense forced three big turnovers as the Red Devils tried to respond.
“We switched defenses in the fourth quarter from a zone-man to a diamond and one to see if we couldn’t get a better handle on (Ryan Sullivan),” Tigers coach Brandon Evenson said. “To be able to hold them to 52 is something, especially in this league.
“I feel like we’re playing our best basketball right now. Defensively we’re better. We’re also finally healthy and playing pretty good right now.”
Zach Hilmes banged down a 3-point goal to cut the Tigers lead to 54-50 with a little over four minutes remaining, but that was as close as East Valley would get. Oxos drained a trey from the wing, then scored on a reverse lay-up on the next possession to make it a nine-point lead.
Josh Benthem, who finished with 12 rebounds and five points, had a game-sealing block with the Tigers pulling away at 61-52. Trenton Kleyn buried a 3-point goal from the wing on the ensuing possession to in essence, bury the Red Devils, who scored just seven points in the final eight minutes.
“It was tough rebounding tonight, but we just kept pushing them,” said Hunter James, who had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. “It was our senior night and we wanted to win for our seniors.
“We slumped there in the middle of the season, but if we just keep on grinding and working hard. Our stuff works and we’re going to live by it.”
The Tiger stuff James referred to is outworking the other guys, pushing on the boards, drive and kick and get after it on the offensive glass.
Prosser (10-9, 9-8) beat Ellensburg on Tuesday and goes into the final game of the regular season tied with Ephrata (11-9, 9-8) for the fifth place in the Central Washington Athletic Conference. The Tigers need to secure the fifth slot to host a CWAC district playoff game and they can take a step in that direction with a win at Quincy on Friday.
East Valley 15 14 16 7 - 52
Ephrata 19 13 15 25 - 70
East Valley - Nate Uriostegui 2, Sahill Randhawa 6, Marckos 3, Jace Durand 3, Raab Adam 3, Alex Nagle 4, Zach Himes 14, Ryan Sullivan 17. Totals: 10 5-8 52 Ephrata - Jakob Oxos 19, Caden Blankenship 20, Trenton Kleyn 3, Tyler McMillan 5, Hunter James 11, Kyle Hendrick 5, Ravi McConnell 2, Josh Benthem 5. Totals: 17 12-17 70