The Lebanon High boys basketball team opened its season on Friday night with a 68-49 home victory over The Dalles.
Both teams had a case of opening-night nerves early and the game was scoreless for the first couple of minutes. But a 3-pointer by junior post Gideon Osborne helped the Warriors get into the flow of the game and Lebanon built a 13-8 lead after the opening quarter.
Lebanon extended the lead to 31-21 at the half.
“We knew going in, first-game jitters, a lot of anticipation, guys putting in lots of work, having expectations for themselves, I knew the shots wouldn’t fall early, but they were all good shots,” said Lebanon head coach Casey VandenBos.
The Riverhawks cut the Warriors’ lead to 32-28 early in the second half. But Lebanon responded with a 17-3 run to close the quarter and entered the fourth with a 49-31 advantage.
Lebanon relied on solid post play by senior Kyle Haley to stretch the lead. Haley scored 12 of his game-high 21 points in the second half.
Osborne added 13 points for the Warriors. VandenBos is counting on Haley and Osborne to anchor the squad.
“Those guys took their lumps last year, first-year varsity guys,” VandenBos said. “Last year was a learning time for them. It’s good to see it pay off now. They’ve already been in this situation, they’ve already played in varsity basketball games, they already know the intensity and the effort that’s required.”
Haley said it was encouraging to get the season off to a strong start. He worked on hard in the offseason on improving his touch around the basket.
“Last year, I just had bricks for hands,” Haley said. “I’d get open, have the shot, but I couldn’t finish it.”
He also worked to get stronger so he could better handle contact inside. He said he has added about 60 pounds to his 6-foot-6 frame in the last year.
“A lot of work in the weight room,” Haley said.
VandenBos said he encouraged Haley to play football this fall and was glad to see him take the advice.
“The best thing I thought Kyle did was play football this year. I think a more well-rounded athlete makes a better basketball player,” VandenBos said.
The Warriors also have seniors Zach Birchem, Peyton Whitney, Austin Parrish and Dane Torgerson on the roster. The junior class of Cole Weber and Michael Dargay was bolstered by Central Linn transfer Aaron Crowell.
Lebanon also expects to get contributions from sophomores Brayden Currey – who scored 10 points in the opener – and Henry Pointer. Both earned varsity playing time as freshmen and are ready to play a bigger role this year.
“Last year was a learning curve for them and now they’ve adjusted. The fact we get two more years with them is pretty exciting,” VandenBos said.
VandenBos had served as an assistant with the Lebanon program for several years before becoming the Central Linn varsity head coach for the 2017-18 season.
The next year he was asked to take over the same role for the Lebanon program. He is very excited to finally get to experience a second year as head coach with the same group.
“I’ve been telling the boys this is my first sophomore campaign,” VandenBos said.
Haley said he can already feel the difference from last year.
“The game moves a lot slower,” Haley said.
VandenBos was pleased with the team’s effort, but knows it is just the first step.
“It’s a good start, but it’s just a start,” he said. “I told the boys, tomorrow we’re not talking about this game, we’re talking about Hood River and moving on.”
Lebanon (2-0) followed up with a 66-60 victory over visiting Hood River Valley on Saturday night.
The Warriors will play at Corvallis on Tuesday, Dec. 17 in an early Mid-Willamette Conference contest.
Lebanon 68, The Dalles 49
The Dalles 8 13 10 18 - 49
Lebanon 13 18 18 19 - 68
The Dalles: Floyd 13, Hernandez 13, DeLeon 8, Pullen 2, Leeson 2, Taylor 6, Seufalemau 5, Stewart, Telles.
Lebanon: Haley 21, Osborne 13, Currey 10, Crowell 9, Weber 6, Birchem 5, Whitney 2, Dargay 2, Parrish, Pointer, Torgerson.