Another OT defeat leaves South Eugene looking to get back on track

Grants Pass picks up a big SWC win over South Eugene with a 69-63 OT win. Jay Elmore (2) led all scorers with 31 points for the Axemen, while Taylor Anderson had 16 for the Cavemen (Photo by Colin Houck / For KMTR)

EUGENE, Ore. - For the second straight game, the South Eugene Axemen needed more than four quarters to reach an outcome in a Southwestern Conference game.

For the second time in four days, the Axemen lost in overtime.

The Grants Pass Cavemen came into South Eugene and took a 69-63 overtime victory over the Axemen, improving to 12-8 (5-3 SWC) on the season. Grants Pass now holds a one-game lead over the Axemen for second place in the Southwestern Conference.

South Eugene (9-11, 4-4), who lost to Willamette in double overtime on Tuesday, 93-90, now sits in a tie for third place in the conference with both Sheldon and Willamette.

"Well, we can't win a close game," said South head coach Dave Hancock with a slight chuckle. "We're just struggling right now. We just fired up too many threes, we didn't attack the basket or get to the foul line enough."

The Axemen shot 5-for-25 from beyond the arc (20%), and were out-rebounded 35-29 in the contest.

Senior guard Jay Elmore led all scorers with 31 points, 20 of which came in the second half and overtime. No other player for South Eugene scored in double figures.

"There's just got to be a better balance between inside and outside that we've got to get to," said Hancock. "It's not like the wheels have all fallen off."

Grants Pass, who was coming off of a loss to 6-seeded Roseburg on Tuesday, got big performances from two key players in Taylor Anderson and Tayler Phillips. Anderson finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Phillips recorded the game's only double-double, with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

"Knowing that both of us were coming off of tough losses, we knew that this was going to be a battle by both teams," said Grants Pass head coach Tyler York. "It was a tough, tough game, but our kids battled their butts off and I'm extremely proud of them."

The Cavemen were extremely efficient on the night, shooting 22-for-45 on the night, and 6-for-8 from three-point range. They also had 13 assists on their 22 made field goals.

"It's tough, because you can't really stop [Elmore]," said York. "I actually thought we did a really good job on him tonight. He's just such a phenomenal player, but we made him work for every basket."

After going down 13-8 in the first quarter, Grants Pass scraped its way back into the game to make it 24-24 at the half.

A back-and-forth ballgame through the third and fourth quarters kept the score close, but the Cavemen went up 49-46 before Elmore hit a three to tie the game with 1:40 remaining.

With the game tied at 51-51 and just over 10 seconds on the clock, Grants Pass inbounded the ball at half court and got a wide-open look at a layup at the buzzer, but it rimmed out.

In overtime, and and-one from South Eugene sophomore Aidan Clark, followed by four free throws from Elmore gave the Axemen a 58-57 lead. However, Grants Pass then went on a 7-0 run to take a four-point lead, and were able to put the game away at the free throw line.

Grants Pass, who now has a firm hold on the No. 2 seed in the conference, will host No. 1 seeded North Medford on Tuesday, and South Eugene will look to take advantage of an off-day on Tuesday, hoping to get back on the right track when they travel to North Medford on Friday.

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