Irish play 'Bully Ball,' dominate South Eugene in the paint to seal home victory
EUGENE, Ore. - The Sheldon Irish picked up a much needed victory over the South Eugene Axemen on Tuesday night at home, dominating the paint and walking away with a 53-44 victory.
The Irish (9-8, 3-3) were able to push around the Axemen (8-9, 3-2) down low, out-rebounding the visitors 47-33 in the contest.
Dominic McGarvey led Sheldon with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Devante Bailey added another 12 points.
The Axemen were stagnant from the tip, and Jay Elmore was the lone source of offense, finishing with a game-high 20 points in his first game back after an ankle injury.
"I think our guys were locked in defensively," said Sheldon head coach Daniel Clark. "Our focus was to play to our strengths defensively and control the boards, and I thought we did a great job on both regards."
Sheldon jumped out to a 9-2 lead early in the first quarter, led by Patrick Herbert, who finished the game with 11 points.
The Axemen were handicapped from the tip, shooting just 1-for-11 in the first quarter, and 4-for-22 in the first half all together. Near the end of the second quarter, Elmore started to get into a rhythm, scoring eight-straight points for South and cutting the lead to 10 going into the half, down 25-15.
"We made some bad decisions early in the game," said South Eugene head coach Dave Hancock. "We didn't move the ball very well -- we just wanted to shoot it up and hope it went in -- and we didn't really attack the basket very well."
Elmore was the only player for South Eugene to finish the game in double-figures.
"We've had this problem all year, where a lot of players want to defer the ball to [Elmore]," said Hancock. "Being the first game back, he wasn't anywhere near what he normally is, and we just didn't play very well as a team today."
Throughout the third quarter, the Axemen were able to keep themselves in the game with the help of Elmore and Aidan Clark, who had a big game down low for South Eugene.
The Axemen cut the lead to 44-38 with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, and later crept to within five at 48-43 with less than a minute left. However, the Irish were able to knock down their free throws and head to the locker room with the victory.
With the victory, the Irish will pull closer to South Eugene for the No. 3 position in the Southwestern Conference, but Clark says that at this point in the season, they aren't focused much on standings.
"It's just the next game on the schedule," said Clark. "We had a rough stretch, so we needed a win in a bad way no matter who it was. We're not paying attention to that, we're just trying to keep getting better game by game and play to our strengths, which I think our guys did tonight."
On Friday, the Irish will have an opportunity to make waves in the conference, as No. 9 ranked North Medford travels to Eugene, sitting in the first seed in the Southwestern Conference.