The Joseph Eagles boys’ basketball team fell 51-46 in a heartbreaking triple overtime loss versus Prairie City Panthers in the state playoffs. Even with the loss, the Eagles earned a 7th place ranking in the 86-team Oregon 1A division.
The Eagles played their usual stellar defense but had some trouble finding the hoop. After a hard-fought first quarter, Joseph was down 14-7.
The Panthers played a very physical game with the squad picking up its seventh foul early in the second quarter. The Eagles defense held the Panthers scoreless for nearly half the second quarter, although the hoop remained elusive for Joseph.
The Eagles came to life toward the end of the quarter, featuring Mason Ferré scoring five, including a three-pointer, in the final minute before the half. When the smoke cleared, the Eagles had pulled within three, 20-17.
Riding the momentum, the Eagles pulled within one upon the opening of the second quarter, 20-19. The teams traded buckets but the Eagle’s defense held steady. About midway through the quarter, a Chase Murray shot from behind the paint put the Eagles up 24-22. The half ended with the Eagles up 27-26.
The two squads took turns scoring in the opening minutes of the final quarter. The Panthers went up 29-28 with 5 minutes left in the final period, but the Eagles answered back with a bucket to retake the lead a minute later. The Eagles were up 30-29 with three minutes remaining.
Chase Murray put up two for a 34-32 lead with 53 seconds remaining, but the Panthers came back with a score at 37 seconds. The game went into a 4-minute overtime.
The first overtime period saw Mason Ferré draw first blood, which the Panthers matched. A pair of free throws by Carson Littlepage and a jumper by Murray put the Eagles up 42-38 with 53 seconds remaining. The Panthers scored and Joseph turned the ball over on its possession, allowing the Panthers to tie in the waning seconds.
The following OT saw the both squads hanging tough. The Eagles led 46-44 with 18 seconds remaining. The Panthers missed their initial shot, but an offensive rebound allowed PC to tie with 2 seconds remaining.
Overtime 3 saw a thoroughly exhausted Eagles’ squad still unable to find the bucket, and less effective than before in rebounding. The Panthers needed only a point to win, but scored five to put the Eagles away, 51-46.
Chase Murray led the scoring with 15 on the board while hauling in an even dozen rebounds. Mason Ferré put 11 through the iron and seized nine boards. Hadley Miller tossed in eight points.
Our defense was real good, we just couldn’t score,” coach Olan Fulfer said. “We played them tough, but couldn’t hit anything at all. We got good looks, but the ball wouldn’t fall.”
Fulfer mentioned that senior Carson Littlepage became ill after the game. The senior ended up at Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande where doctors diagnosed an inflamed appendix, which was later successfully removed.
Fulfer said the Eagles wished they had made it further in the tournament but were happy that they made their mark this season.
“There’s so much to be proud of for the whole season and how the team was at the tournament,” he said. “They held their heads up high and were fine after the game — they were able to put it into perspective.
“The seniors have a lot to be proud of and the underclassmen are proud of what the seniors did for us,” he said. “They’re excited to put in the work and get even better for next year.”