Tigers put a new wrinkle on old play to run away from Connell

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Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin Herald Ephrata senior Hunter James gets the handle on a rebound during the second half of Tuesday's nonleague game with Connell.

EPHRATA — Ephrata coach Brandon Evenson and Connell’s Jim Jacobs have been around each other so long that their collective basketball mindset is like they are having interchangeable parts to the same game plan.

Jacobs coached enough on Evenson’s staff to know what works and when to use it.

“If it works, then it’s mine. If not, then it’s his,” Jacobs said with a laugh as he and Evenson talked before Tuesday night’s nonleague game in The Jungle.

The Ephrata coach got a little crafty, drawing up a never-been-used play on the dry erase board right before the start of the third quarter to give his club the edge and the Tigers (2-2) did the rest in a 59-46 victory over the previously unbeaten Eagles (2-1).

“We just put a new wrinkle on one of our plays and it got us a couple of looks inside and a couple of quick baskets to start the second half,” Evenson said.

That’s the beauty of a multi-talented lineup. You, you, and you — do this. You swing it wide and you drive it to the hole. If they were outside on the playground, Evenson would have drawn it up in the dirt. But he had the dry board squeaking with circles and arrows.

“We had a slow first half, I thought,” said Hunter James, who finished up with 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. “There’s a lot of similar plays the two teams have, but coach drew up a new play. We’d never seen it before. He came up with some motion to get us moving. We trusted the process and it worked.”

Seth Elliot buried a buzzer beater from midcourt to end the first half that helped jump-start the energy level. The new wrinkle in the comfortable jeans, a half a dozen blocks on the defensive end, coupled with a floor length pass by Josh Benthem that looked a lot like the beautiful spirals Trenton Kleyn put on him during the football season. Benthem stood on the end line and let fly a ball that James took over-the-shoulder like a seam route. The 6-foot-4 power forward took it in stride and laid it in on an in-your-face press break that brought the Tiger fan base to its feet.

Ephrata expanded a 26-22 halftime lead with a 21-point third quarter. Tyler Mack had both of his 3-point goals in the period. Lakota Lange and Elliot both hit one from downtown and the Tigers started to pull away.

Where they used to run the floor and live-and-die by the three ball last year, Ephrata settled into a balanced offense with a little push to keep the edge.

“We’ve been playing zone (defense) all year, but we went man to kind of practice it. I liked it tonight, and now we have two defenses,” Evenson said. “Connell is a great team, so this is a big win.”

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