Shaw, Klekas lead defensive-minded Umpqua past Spokane, 87-73
WINCHESTER — Running the point, directing the offense, is Connor Shaw’s comfort zone.
Putting the sophomore in primary charge on the floor has also allowed Umpqua to put a longer group on the floor on defense, and that has flipped the young season on its head in a hurry.
Shaw and Eric Klekas combined for 42 points and the Riverhawks never trailed in the second half on Saturday as they avenged an earlier loss with an 87-73 victory over Spokane in a Northwest Athletic Conference men’s basketball Crossover tournament game.
Eight days earlier in the Dale Bates Classic at Lane C.C., Umpqua burped up a 19-point lead to Spokane in the final 11 minutes and lost, 94-89. There was a definite desire for some vengeance for the Riverhawks (5-5), and getting it started with their revamped defense that, to an extent, is predicated on Shaw being the primary ballhandler.
“After we lost last week, being up 19 and they came back and beat us, that hit us hard,” UCC freshman forward Cameron Benzel said. “We turned everything around and looked at it to just come out and kick some butt, especially against Spokane. It was payback time.”
Klekas, who had 34 points in the loss to Spokane last week, had a game-high 22 on Saturday — 14 in the first half — and Shaw added 20. The duo led four double-figure scorers, as Kolten Mortensen added 11 and John Morrill-Keeler had 10. Benzel added seven points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench.
“It was a lot of motivation,” Klekas said. “It was a lot of motivation even from last year, when they beat us in double-overtime ... The motivation was through the roof.”
Umpqua has run a two-point system for much of the past two seasons and began this year with 5-foot-10 freshman Brock Gilbert at point along with the 6-1 Shaw. After going 0-3 at the Dale Bates Classic, Umpqua coach Daniel Leeworthy took a long look at how to shore up the defense and keep the Riverhawks’ potent offense running. A component of the answer was having Max Martin, a 6-4 sophomore guard, replace Gilbert in the starting five and putting a greater load on Shaw.
“That was one of the things that went into starting me at the one, it was defensive,” Shaw said after adding six rebounds and five assists to his scoring. “It helps us match up a little bit better because we’re bigger and the past (two) games it’s worked out really well.
“And Brock is still playing really well. I thought he did really well (Friday) and he came in today and did really well.”
After two games, the returns have been all positive. Umpqua blew out No. 4 Skagit Valley on Friday night, then turned on No. 6 Spokane. The Riverhawks face unranked Centralia, which upended Skagit Valley 80-65 on Saturday, at 2 p.m. Sunday with hopes of going 3-0 on the weekend. Skagit Valley and Spokane will meet at noon.
Umpqua never trailed Spokane by more than two — and that was less than three minutes into the contest — led by as many as 10 in the first half and led 37-32 after holding the Sasquatch to 38.2 percent (13-for-34) shooting from the field.
“We’ve changed our defensive system over the last week to correct some things and to bring some more energy to our defensive side,” Leeworthy said. “And I think we need a little bit more scoring and energy off the bench. Things could change again in the future, but this works for us right now.”
The Riverhawks never trailed in the second half. Spokane did get the margin down to two, but UCC responded with a drive by Shaw to kick off an 8-0 run that pushed the margin back to 10, and the Riverhawks went on to lead by as many as 16.
Shaw played the entire first half and didn’t get any rest until inside the eight-minute mark, when Gilbert permitted him five minutes of rest. Gilbert played 21 minutes as UCC still ran some double-point, and finished with four points and two assists. Shaw had 15 of his 20 points in the second half, when Umpqua outscored Spokane 50-41 and shot 58.3 percent from the field (21-for-36).
“We’ll still play both Connor and Brock,” Leeworthy said. “Connor brings us valuable sophomore leadership at the point, so we’re starting him and Brock was fantastic (Friday) and he was very good down the stretch today. He has, I believe, a 3-1 assist to turnover ratio. We had a lot of good contributions from a lot of people.”
UCC’s bench provided 21 points.
Spokane was paced by Garrett White with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Asher Cox chipped in 11 points. Leading scorer JR Delgado managed nine points.
Centralia’s Marqus Gilson had 18 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Blazers past Skagit Valley, while Collin Prangley added 10 points off the bench. CCC led 47-38 at the half after hitting 53.1 percent from the field to start the game.
Skagit Valley hit 36.1 percent from the field in the loss to Centralia and was led by Caleb Sheldon with 16 points and Kemo Bell with 12. Both came off the bench.
SPOKANE (73) — Garrett White 4-8 3-4 14, Pakootas 3-10 2-2 9, Parker 4-7 0-0 9, Delgado 3-9 2-3 9, Cox 5-14 1-4 11, Gotell 3-6 1-1 8, McCliment-Call 1-3 0-0 2, Alstrom 3-4 0-2 6, Stith 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Furqueron 1-3 2-2 5. Totals 27-64 11-18 73.
UMPQUA (87) — Eric Klekas 8-18 2-2 22, Shaw 8-17 2-2 20, Martin 1-5 0-0 3, Mortenson 5-7 0-0 11, Morrill-Keeler 5-7 0-0 10, Gilbert 1-3 2-2 4, Sutton 3-4 0-0 6, Benzel 3-3 1-1 7, Peterson 2-3 0-0 4, Marz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 36-68 7-7 87.
Halftime Score — Umpqua 37-32. 3-Point Goals — Spo. 8-20 (Pakootas 1-3, Parker 1-1, White 3-4, Delgado 1-4, Cox 0-3, Gotell 1-2, McCliment-Call 0-1, Alstrom 0-1, Fuqueron 1-1), Ump. 8-22 (Shaw 2-6, Martin 1-5, Mortensen 1-1, Klekas 4-8, Gilbert 0-1, Peterson 0-1). Total Fouls — Spo. 11, Ump. 15. Rebounds — Spo. 26 (White 10), Ump. 40 (Benzel 8). Assists — Spo. 8 (Pakootas 3, Parker 3), Ump. 18 (Shaw 5). Turnovers — Spo. 8, Ump. 9. Fouled Out — None. Technicals — None.