East Linn Christian Academy’s 37-33 loss to visiting Toledo on Tuesday, Dec. 18, was a frustrating experience for coach Scott Roth and his squad.
The Eagles had an opportunity to knock off the Boomers, who are 7-1 and ranked in the top-10 in the OSAA’s 2A classification.
“A team that we could measure ourselves by, a good quality team, and we were right there. But hats off to them, they got it done in the end,” Roth said. “We’re still working. The kids are probably in better spirits than the coach is because they are starting to realize their potential and see where we’ve been building for the last 18 months, through summer leagues and all that stuff.”
The Eagles (6-3) got off to a slow start, scoring just three points in the first quarter and 11 total in the first half. ELCA struggled shooting the ball against the Boomers’ defense (being held below 30 percent from the field for the contest) and that carried over to the free-throw line, where the Eagles made just 45 percent of their attempts.
Roth gave credit to Toledo’s defense for making his squad uncomfortable.
“They were very scrappy, physical. Somebody was leaning on you, maybe a little bump,” Roth said. “We had to get used to the flow of the game, the physicality of the game.”
Grace Wilson led the Eagles with 18 points and Emma Roth added nine. Together, they combined for 27 of the Eagles’ 33 points.
“We need to be a three-headed monster, instead of a two-headed monster,” coach Roth said. “We’re still looking for that third person to step up. Maybe it’s by committee.”
While the offense struggle at times, Roth was pleased with the defensive effort.
“That’s one thing about this group. The defense always seems to come to play. We play pretty good defense, most of the time,” Roth said. “We do struggle with rebounding, but we’ve been focusing on that in practice and it was better tonight.”
The defense kept the team in the game. After trailing 16-11 at halftime, the Eagles rallied back to tie the game at 21 with 3:left to play in the third quarter. The game was close the rest of the way, with the score knotted at 25 entering the fourth quarter.
Both teams struggle to score in the final frame, and the Boomers held a 27-25 lead with less than 4 minutes left on the clock. Two free throws by Wilson gave the Eagles a 29-27 lead with 2:36 left to play, but Toledo went on a 5-0 run to gain control.
Wilson is not discouraged and has seen the team make progress since the season began.
“We’ve gotten to where we finish games. Last week, we won by one and that was really big,” Wilson said, referring to a 26-25 victory over Mohawk. “Last year we weren’t a second-half team. This year, we’ve come so far already and we’re already much more of a team than we were last year.”
The Eagles wrap up their nonconference slate with a game at Perrydale on Saturday, Dec. 29. East Linn Christian will travel to Stayton to play Regis in their Central Valley Conference opener on Wednesday, Jan. 2.