CENTRAL POINT -- After being pushed to the brink by a hot-shooting Hermiston team, the Crater boys basketball team is headed to the state tournament for the first time since 2009. The Comets won 51-43, hitting key free throws down the stretch.
Crater built up a lead in the early going, limiting Hermiston to contested jumpers while Cade Weaver and Nathan Bittle caught fire from outside. The lead grew as big as 12 before the Bulldogs started hitting the outside shot and cut into the lead. At halftime, the Comets clung to a 37-28 lead.
Hermiston came out in the second half and further cut into the lead with the help of some cold shooting from the Comets. With under two minutes to play, the Bulldogs had cut the lead to just two. Sophomore guard Jayden Vranes provided the dagger, up by three with a minute to play, as he stole a cross-court pass and took it the other way to extend the lead to five.
All the Comets had to do from there was hit free throws down the stretch, which they did. After knocking off a pesky Hermiston team, who won their league like Crater did, the Comets are headed to the state quarterfinals in Corvallis. The rest of their games will be played at Gill Coliseum, where Oregon State University plays its home games.
This Comets team has a chance to make history in a number of ways. With the win tonight, they tied the school record 14 straight wins, so they can top that with a win in the next round. A win in the next round would also propel them to the state semifinal, the furthest a Crater team has ever gone.
Crater has never won a state title. Their 1990 team, which also lost just one regular season game, lost in the state semifinals. Mason Vranes and the rest of the Comets are now determined to make even more history next week.
"It's a big deal, because we won the first league title in 28 years and we're the best Crater team of all time," Vranes said, "Now, it's up to us to prove it and live up to what we said we're going to do. So, that's what we're going to do."