GALLATIN - For the first 11 minutes of the game Friday night it looked as if the District 9-AAA matchup between host Station Camp and visiting Portland would come down to the wire.
However, tied at 22 with 4:44 left in the first half, Station Camp senior Eli Thurston knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Bison a lead they would not surrender.
Thurston finished the game with a team-high 25 points leading his Bison to a 77-51 victory.
Teammate and fellow senior Kavon Blankenship pitched in 20 points in the win.
“I thought those guys were big; they were really good tonight,” Station Camp head coach Seth Massey said.
Leading 38-26 at the break, Station Camp outscored Portland 14-8 in the third quarter to balloon their lead to 52-38 after 24 minutes.
“I thought we shared the ball, got it where we wanted to and attacked the basket,” Massey said of his team. “I thought we did a good job of getting the shot we wanted to get. Last week I thought we played with too much emotion and tonight we really settled in and was more patient offensively.”
Station Camp finished the win with a monstrous 44 paint points, 18 second chance points, and nine secured offensive rebounds.
“We didn’t defend or rebound the way we have been this season,” Portland head coach Darryl Travis said. “We didn’t do either from the middle of the second quarter on. I thought we had way too many breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Panthers stayed in the game for the first 15 minutes grabbing rebounds, both offensively and defensively, and attacking the rim.
“Nine of our first 15 points came on the offensive rebounds,” Travis added. “That is one thing we have been doing. It has kept us in ball games. But for some reason after the second quarter we just didn’t do that.”
One thing that hurt the Panthers was losing a physical presence down low in Hunter Hicks. Hicks left the game with an ankle injury in the first quarter and never returned.
Also, right before Station Camp went on their run in the second quarter, Portland big man Darius Bell exited with two fouls leaving the already small bench without much wiggle room.
“Portland is a very good team,” Massey said. “They had a couple guys go out with injuries and foul trouble, and not being very deep that hurt them. I think we caught a little bit of a break with that but I thought we still played well.”
Bell finished with a team high 21 points for the Panthers.
“He is a really good athlete that has played a lot of minutes for them over the years,” Massey said. “He was good tonight. He created a little bit of a matchup problem when he was on the floor.”
After cutting the Bison lead to 10 in the third quarter following a Duncan Smallwood and-one plus the free throw, Station Camp regained momentum following a missed Mitchell Eagle dunk.
Racing back down the floor, Station Camp converted one of the their four 3-pointers for a five point swing.
“We never recovered from that momentum switch,” Travis said. “When you are in a district battle you can’t have mental mistakes. You cannot give away opportunities. I thought tonight we went backwards.”
Station Camp closed out much of the fourth quarter with their bench players, outscoring Portland 25-13.
Boys Box Score:
Station Camp (77): Eli Thurston 25, Kavon Blankenship 20, Kheller Die 11, Donovon Smith 5, Cameron Gerlach 4, Trey Moore 4, Isaiah Davis 3, Samuel Bailey 3, Alex Vaughn 2.
Portland (51): Darius Bell 21, Mitchell Eagle 12, Duncan Smallwood 5, Dawson Kennedy 5, Tuor Dheil 4, Hunter Hicks 2, Caeson Utley 2.