The Sandpoint boys basketball team wasn’t quite ready to call it a wrap in the West Valley Summer League.
In spite of a slow first quarter, a streaky shooting Liberty (Spangle, Washington) team and playing with four underclassmen on the floor for the majority of the game, the Bulldogs used defense and a 13-point fourth-quarter from Ethan Butler to win 40-39 in overtime.
“You watch these guys and they step up in the moment,” Sandpoint head coach Wade Engelson said. “When they’re out there, you can’t see that there’s a weak link. They’re all competing and working hard for each other.”
In a sense, the Bulldogs’ overtime win was the epitome of their West Valley Summer League experience: Sandpoint battled back from an 11-point, first-half deficit, the underclassmen stepped it up during a third-quarter defensive surge, then varsity returners Ethan Butler, Darren Bailey and Kobe Banks came through to finish it.
Fittingly, the senior Banks (10 points, five assists, three steals) kicked off the game by nailing the first three he took and finishing acrobatically at the rim. But Liberty reversed the ball around to its open shooters and opened up an 11-point first quarter lead.
Yet a quiet confidence about the young Sandpoint team was apparent as the Bulldogs started chipping away.
Seeking a spark, Engelson shuffled the lineup and trotted out a lineup of four freshmen and sophomores with the aforementioned Bailey as the most veteran player on the floor. Arie VanDenBerg hit a corner three seconds after he checked in the game, which immediately made Liberty’s lead seem smaller than it appeared.
In the second, fellow freshman Jacob Eldridge’s rebounding on both ends of the floor kept Sandpoint in the game. He finished with a team-high eight rebounds, including a minute-long span in which he grabbed not one, but three offensive rebounds before rewarding himself with a nifty up-and-under layup between three Lancers.
In the span of a quarter, the Bulldogs went from dead in the water to only down five.
Then the trademark second-half defensive surge happened.
Using a five-guard lineup, the Bulldogs came out of the break in their press, which immediately flummoxed the Lancers. Bailey’s deflections and steals set the tone for a defensive slog-fest; both teams combined to score seven points on one field goal, courtesy of a late Lancers three with 17 seconds in the frame.
What happened next was essentially an Ethan Butler highlight reel.
Butler came alive, going on a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter that brought Sandpoint back in the game. The sophomore forward muscled shrugged off defenders, finished through contact and made Liberty pay for giving him too much to operate in the high post. A whopping 13 of his 15 points came from that quarter, highlighted by turning in a no-look, behind-the-back pass from Banks into Sandpoint’s first lead of the game.
Yet the moment wasn’t too big for the underclassmen either. Randy Lane’s chase-down block with 1:13 to go not only erased a possible go-ahead Liberty layup, but also allowed precious seconds to run off the clock as the Lancers panicked.
“You can’t make a hustle play if you’re not hustling,” Engelson said. “You saw that when Randy sprinted back right when it looked like their guy had a gimme layup. In fact, he did it twice. He had two big blocks.”
Eleven seconds into overtime, Parker Pettit opened up the scoring with a strong take, then Bailey’s floater at the elbow ended up being the difference-maker two possessions later.
Liberty had a chance to win it on the final possession after rebounding a missed Sandpoint free throw with 16.1 seconds remaining, but Banks picked off a lazy pass to seal the deal.
Sandpoint plays the winner of top-seeded West Valley and 8-seed Davenport tomorrow at 6 p.m.
Liberty 17 6 4 9 3 — 39
Sandpoint 9 9 3 15 4 — 40
LIBERTY — Roster unavailable.
SANDPOINT — Banks 10, Bailey 5, VanDenBerg 3, Butler 15, Eldridge 4, Pettit 2, Lane 1, Dickinson 0