STERLING – You would think it was just another day in the life for Caleb Mowry.
The Oregon senior swished a 15-footer off a penetration and dish by Holden White with just 4 seconds left, lifting the Hawks to a 63-61, comeback victory over St. Francis de Sales on Friday in a Newman tournament semifinal.
“I was just clear, not thinking of anything,” said Mowry, who scored a game- and career-high 38 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “It was just going in the hole.”
His teammates agreed.
“I just turned around, because it’s bottom,” said junior Jessie McKinley, who added 10 points. “I just turned around.”
Cornelius McIntosh, who led de Sales with 20, missed a buzzer-beating runner on the other end.
Oregon jumped out to a 9-2 lead when Ian Holley drained a 3 from the left wing with 4:40 left in the first. When McKinley leapt to make an eye-popping, behind-the-back save along the right sideline, and Mowry took the ball to the hole to make it 14-8, it appeared to be all Hawks.
But early in the second period, Mowry missed a front end and, just seconds later, fouled Jawan Avant on the other end. The 6-foot-5 senior finished and made the free throw to seize a 23-15 lead and send Mowry to the bench with his second.
That was part of a 12-0 burst to start the period to give the Pioneers a 25-15 advantage. They led 30-21 at the break and 47-38 after three.
But Mowry scored 16 of Oregon’s 25 points in the final frame. The Pioneers’ coach, Kevin Wolfe, paid credit to the Hawks’ guards.
“One thing Oregon does very, very well, better than any team we’ve seen so far – and we’ve seen some big, big schools – their guards really know how to enter the ball into the post,” he said.
“[Our guards] created all of my points,” Mowry said. “They drove and they kicked.”
The 6-5 center on a mission bullied Avant and 6-3 forward Raashod Fenner out of the game with fouls midway through the fourth. After Mowry tied the game at 48 with two throws with 5:40 to play, McKinley came up with a steal and a runout to give Oregon a 53-52 lead, its first since 40 seconds in the second period.
White missed two free throws with 27.5 seconds left and the Hawks up 61-59, and Derrick Dawson hit two on the other end to draw even with 9.4 seconds glowing on the clock.
White wanted redemption. Mowry wanted the ball.
“I was feeling it,” Mowry said. “I wanted the ball so bad. I wanted the win to come through me. No one was going to stop me, and we were going to win the game.”
White ran almost the entire length of the floor, until Rontez Allen-Shabazz committed to his drive once he reached the free-throw line.
Dish. Swish. Onions.
“I was struggling, personally,” White said. “It was definitely a moment of redemption.”
“That shot’s probably No. 1 on my list. That was a big shot,” Mowry said. “This was a big one.”
Star of the game: Caleb Mowry, Oregon, 38 points, 12-for-19 FGs, 14-for-17 FTs, 10 rebounds, 2 steals
Key performers: Cornelius McIntosh, St. Francis de Sales, 20 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, assist
Up next: Newman tournament championship – Oregon vs. Newman, 7:30 p.m.
The sports writer had a feeling the Hawks’ execution would eventually be rewarded. Read all about it in his blog at saukvalley.com/blogs/extra-extra/