The last time Hood River Valley and The Dalles faced off on Feb. 10, Riverhawk junior Dakota Murr fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, so Josh Nisbet and Eric Flores stepped up to help the team pick up a critical league win.
Tuesday night in Hood River, Murr put his team, the program and community on his back in a record-setting performance that all but assured the Riverhawks a state play-in berth.
Murr scored 29 of his school-record 53 points in the second half, as The Dalles bounced back from a 44-31 halftime deficit with a 44-24 second-half run to dispatch of Hood River Valley by a 75-68 margin in a Columbia River Conference boys’ basketball showdown at Vannet Court.
In addition to his 53 points on 17 field goals, six 3-pointers, Murr added 15 rebounds, recorded eight steals and dished off four assists.
“One thing that I was so pleased with is from the get-go, he was just giving maximum effort defensively and was just relentless on the offensive end,” head coach Nathan Morris said of Murr. “He was just feeling it. He was pulling up for some threes, driving and floating shots over defenders. Everything was just falling for him and you didn’t question what he was doing.”
At one point in the third quarter, the Riverhawks trailed by 16 points.
As the quarter went on, TD steadily chipped away, using defense to change momentum.
Flores, who scored six third-quarter points, had three steals that turned into transition baskets, and Johnny Miller made 3 of 4 free throws to go with Murr’s 12 points to lead a 21-11 spurt, cutting the Riverhawk deficit to 55-52 entering the final period.
Murr scored 17 of the team’s 23 fourth-quarter points, and Nisbet drained a clutch 3-pointer, and senior forward Dawson Hoffman added another late 3-pointer to keep Hood River Valley at bay.
The last-place Eagles (7-13 overall, 1-6 league) mustered seven second-half field goals, two in the fourth quarter, both from Dakota Kurahara, as The Dalles ended the game on a 23-13 run.
“Dakota (Murr) scoring 53 points is an incredible feat all by itself, but what I told the kids afterward, and I mean every word of it, that is not what won us the game,” Morris said. “What won us the game was that we held them to 24 points in the second half. That comes down to heart, effort and everybody working in-sync together.”
While Murr scored 24 first-half points, Hood River Valley had six players hit baskets in a balanced scoring attack.
Kurahara posted 12 points, J.J. Mears had 11, Jonah Tactay added 10, and Carson Flores netted seven points to give the Eagles a 13-point lead at the break.
“I felt like we were not matching their intensity level,” Morris said. “We were a step behind and we were letting Hood River dictate everything offensively. The gameplan was sound, it was just a matter of executing it and trying to get kids to dictate what Hood River was doing offensively rather than the other way around. We did a great job of that in the second half.”
Only the four walls and the players know what transpired at halftime, but those words from Morris gave his group a little extra pep in their step.
In the second half, Carson Flores and Mears were each held scoreless, and both Tactay and Trenton Hough notched a field goal apiece.
“Mentally, it came down to who wanted it the most and we came out fired up after halftime,” Murr said. “Defense in the third and fourth quarter was so significant in our win. We played with more energy, passion and with a lot of effort. The reward was worth it. We definitely ‘risked it to get the biscuit’ and got the W.”
Kurahara wound up with a team-high 22 points, Tactay scored 19, Mears had 11 and Hough chipped in 10 points for the Eagles, who totaled 23 field goals, five 3-pointers, and shot 19 of 27 from the line.
The Dalles hit for 25 field goals, nine 3-pointers, and made 16 of 21 free throws, 11 of 15 in the second half.
Eric Flores tallied eight points, Hoffman went for six, Nisbet dropped five and Miller ended up with three points.
The road victory gave The Dalles a tiebreaker edge on Hood River, but if the Eagles can defeat No. 8 Pendleton on Thursday and No. 11 Hermiston on Friday, then they secure third place in the Columbia River Conference and the final playoff slot.
It is a waiting game now.
The rest is up to the basketball gods.
Nonetheless, Morris likes the upward swing his team is on.
“We have faced a lot of adversity this year and some injuries have come at the worst possible time, momentum-wise,” Morris said. “It has killed our momentum, but we have played our best basketball over the last four or five games here. That is what I am excited about. You always want to feel like the team is improving throughout the season and you are peaking at the right time. I definitely think that we are.”
TD (5-15, 2-7) hosts Crook County at 7 p.m. Thursday, and then heads to Redmond for a 7 p.m. game Friday against Ridgeview.