Road Runners shove, but the Storm push back
By Simson Garcia
The Storm pushed, and the Linn-Benton Roadrunners shoved back. The Storm then pushed back even harder.
In a packed home game this past Saturday night, what seemed like a pushing and shoving match eventually turned into a hard-fought Chemeketa victory, 83-67.
The tone was set in the first half when Jalen Ballard, a first-year Storm guard, pushing the ball up court after creating a turnover.
On the next possession, when Chemeketa inbounded and was ready to again push the ball down up the court, a disgruntled Linn-Benton player shoved his shoulder into Ballard when their hands got tied up.
Instead of pushing back, Ballard’s reaction was to push the ball forward every time Chemeketa gained possession.
Sophomore guard Keith Bowen Jr., who also saw his fair share of pushing the ball up the court, said afterward, “Pushing was exactly the idea we wanted. Doing that would get our energy up as well as our focus.”
Bowen and freshman forward Tim Graham led all scorers with 19 points apiece.
Every time the Storm would push, the Road Runners seemed to sit back on their heels. This produced a great many first-half shoves as Linn-Benton played an in-your-face hybrid of zone and man-to-man defense to combat the fire-starting Chemeketa offense.
This hard-nosed defense produced results as Chemeketa struggled to get good looks in the opening minutes while Linn-Benton capitalized on the offensive end.
Trevor Cooley, a Linn-Benton second-year guard, got hot early, setting the tone for his team by knocking down a few 3-pointers.
The teams traded baskets during the next few possessions, and the score was soon tied at 21-each.
Near the halfway mark in the first half, the Road Runners found some opening to hit on 3-pointers and long 2-point shots.
But the Storm continued to push the ball, capitalizing on high-percentage lay-ups and close-in to mid-range jumpers.
With 6:38 left in the half, Coach David Abderhalden called a time-out to regroup his team after the Storm gave up a 3-pointer and an easy lay-up to see Linn-Benton surge ahead, 33-28.
The timeout worked as Chemeketa went on an impressive 19-2 run to end the half.
Chemeketa produced consecutive coast-to-coast lay-ups from Graham and Bowen during the run. The halftime score had the Storm on top, 47-35.
Chemeketa amped up its defensive pressure to start the second half, forcing key turnovers.
When Linn-Benton was able to get past the Storm’s pressure zone, the team still struggled to find the open shots that they saw in the opening frame.
Four minutes into the second half, Linn-Benton was forced to call three timeouts while Chemeketa was able to take advantage during multiple offensive possessions.
Chemeketa would get impressive buckets during the run, including a mid-range jumper from sophomore forward Jordan Ewell that turned into a 3-point play after a foul.
Later, Bowen grabbed an impressive Kevin Love-esque outlet pass from sophomore forward Rashid Mahboub and finished off the fast-break assist.
The 12-0 run by the Storm to start the second half produced a thundering 31-2 run after the team trailed by 5 points late in the first half. The score was now 59-35 with a little under 16 minutes to go.
After its third timeout, Linn-Benton produced its own 12-0 run and quieted the Storm for a spell, narrowing the score to 59-47.
Linn-Benton wasn’t able to match the Storm’s continuous up-court push, however, and the Storm went on an 8-2 run to take command, 67-49.
Plenty of basketball remained, with both teams continuing to play hard on both ends. The Storm reigned, however, fighting to earn the 16-point victory.
Chemeketa is currently on a 4 game winning streak. The Storm’s overall Northwest Athletic Conference record is 10-6 after earning its first win against a divisional foe to put its Southern Division record at 1-0.
Assistant coach Jeff Williams said that the Storm’s goal would be “for us is to try and be at the top of our division this year. That’s where we’d like to be.”
Linn-Benton is 0-1 in divisional play and 4-7 overall.
The Storm’s next game will be against division opponent Mt. Hood, which also lost its first divisional game on Saturday and is at the bottom of the division with a 3-9 record.
Tip-off for the road game starts at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 14.