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Santiam boys basketball take lead in Tri-River East

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The Santiam High boys basketball team rallied to take a 58-57 Tri-River Conference win against Regis on Tuesday night in Stayton.

The win lifted the Wolverines, ranked No. 8 in Class 2A to 3-0 in league play. The Tri-River is split into two divisions this season, with Santiam, Kennedy, Regis, Culver, Colton and Gervais playing in the East and Blanchet, Delphian, Willamina, Western Christian and Salem Academy in the West. 

Santiam’s 3–0 mark  leads the East, 1 game ahead of Kennedy and Regis, and the Wolverines already have beaten both squads. Tri-River teams play intra-division rivals twice, though, so the Wolverines face Kennedy again on Jan. 30 in Mt. Angel and will host Regis Feb. 3 in Mill City.

The Rams, ranked No. 13, held narrow leads for most of the game and equaled their biggest margin on the night, 6 points, when Noah Koenig nailed a 3-pointer off an assist from Diego Aguilar for a 50-44 edge with 5:13 to go. 

Santiam then made the game’s crucial run, going on a 9-0 streak to take a 53-50 edge.

Ezra Downey, who led the Wolverines with 21 points, started the run with a drive, and moments later Gage Twede railed a 3-pointer to pull the visitors within 50-49. Rugged post Jesse Dana gave Santiam the lead at 51-50 with a rebound basket after a Twede 3-pointer went awry, and Twede finished the run with a steal and a layup. With 2:09 to go Santiam was up 3, at 53-50.

Isaiah Koehnke put in a difficult bank shot to pull Regis within 1, but Twede, who finished with 13 points, added a drive for a 55-52. Downey and Aguilar, who led all scorers with 28 points, swapped drives, leaving Santiam on top 57-54 with less than a minute left.

Santiam sophomore Xavier Vital added a clutch free throw with 22 seconds left for a 58-54 edge, making it a 2-possession game and the Rams were not able to connect until Aguilar nailed a top-of-the-key 3 pointer at the final buzzer.

“That was a pretty fun game but a little nerve-wracking.” Santiam coach J.D. Hill told The Canyon Weekly. “We’re a very scrappy bunch. These are tough kids.”

Hill said the key to the late rally was finally being able to get some stops on defense and Twede’s 3-pointer.

“I thought we struggled a bit at the 3-point line,” said Hill, whose squad made 2 from beyond the arc, Twede’s shot and one by Vital in the third period. Regis made 3.

In the first half of the doubleheader the Regis girls squad edged Santiam 42-34. Both teams are 2-1 in the Tri-River East, one game behind 3-0 Gervais.

The Rams led comfortably in the first half, at one time holding a 29-12 lead. But Santiam rallied to within 29-16 at the half and pulled within 34-30 at the end of the third period, led by the long-range shooting of freshman Maizy Downey, who hit 5 3-pointers and finished with 17 points.

Regis, however, held on in the final period, limiting Downey to a pair of free throws and using 4 late free throws by junior Adele Otter to keep the Wolverines at bay.

Versatile freshman point guard Clara Persons led No. 9 Regis with 16 points, including 3 3-pointers. Haley Foster added 9 and Kaylee Silbernagel 6. Santiam’s Brooke Massey backed up Downey with 6 points before fouling out in the final 30 seconds.

The game was a battle of youthful stars. Reis Peterson of Santiam was the lone senior on the floor to start the game. Regis started 3 freshmen (Persons, Makenzie Schacher and Hadley Foster), while Santiam started 1 freshman (Downey) and sophomores Massey and Reese Longfellow. 

Wrestling: The Wolverines took part in the prestigious Pape Linn County event at Lebanon, which also included the host Warriors, Sweet Home, West Albany, South Albany, Harrisburg, Scio, Central Linn and Santiam. Wyatt Dayton (145) of the Wolverines went 2-2 and was 1 match from placing, while Lukus Lebahn (152) went 1-2, with both losses being close ones. Santiam wrestled against Vernonia on Thursday, Jan. 12. after The Canyon Weekly’s presstime.

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