COOS BAY -- For a quarter, upstart Harrisburg stayed with top-ranked Valley Catholic in the Class 3A boys basketball semifinals Friday night. The Eagles even led 9-8 after Dax Wilson hit a dipsy-do reverse layup to beat the first-quarter buzzer.
But then the Valiants stepped up their defense, the Eagles went ice cold and Valley Catholic took control on the way to a 50-24 win. That puts Valley Catholic in tonight's final against Lewis & Clark League rival De La Salle North Catholic.
"It feels great," said Valley Catholic's Jarrett Gray. "We were in the semis last year. It feels good to finally get there."
Any momentum Harrisburg had after Wilson's buzzer-beater quickly went away when Valley Catholic post Gabe Taylor scored the first nine points of the second quarter on three inside buckets and a 3-pointer.
At halftime, Harrisburg still had just the nine points Wilson put up in the first quarter after going 0-for-12 from the floor in the second frame.
"We had some mental breakdowns on defense in the second quarter," said Harrisburg's Sawyur Headings. "We just took outside shots and led them play their game instead of ours."
Harrisburg didn't hit another field goal until Headings put in a jumper nearly six minutes into the third quarter -- the Eagles did have four free throws earlier in the quarter -- and never were able to cut into the Valiants' lead.
"We played our hardest," Headings said. "The shots weren't falling."
The Valiants had something to do with that.
"I think we played great -- especially on defense," Gray said. "That's what we've been focusing on the last few weeks."
He said the players were so focused they didn't realize Harrisburg hadn't scored in the second quarter until the coaches mentioned it at halftime.
Harrisburg finished the game 7-for-45 from the floor (15 percent) and just 1-for-21 from 3-point range.
The Valiants, meanwhile, were able to take advantage of Taylor's height inside. He made his first 10 shots, often off passes from Gray and Kazuma Lane, and finished the game with 28 points.
Valley Catholic had great ball movement as a whole.
"We've been playing together really well the past few weeks," said Lane, who finished with five assists. Taylor and JD Menkens added three each.
Gray finished with 14 points and grabbed six rebounds, part of a 38-23 edge for the Valiants -- Taylor had a game-high 11 boards.
Valley Catholic faces a familiar foe tonight. The Valiants and De La Salle North Catholic have faced off three times already this season and the Knights handed Valley Catholic one of its two losses. The league's third team at state, Portland Adventist, also beat the Valiants.
The Valiants can expect a fast-paced title game with De La Salle's constant pressure.
"We're pretty used to what they do," Gray said. "They're a great team. That's why they're in the championship game."
Valley Catholic will have a chance to sweep the titles, with the girls facing Vale in the earlier championship game -- start times for both were moved back slightly to accommodate Marshfield's playoff game against North Valley at 4 p.m.
"It's great for them," Taylor said of Valley Catholic's girls, who are trying for a repeat title. "They've been working hard all year."
Harrisburg, meanwhile, faces Portland Adventist for third place in a 7 p.m. game at North Bend High School. That game was moved because Portland Adventist's religious beliefs don't allow them to play until after sunset today.
Wilson had 13 points for the Eagles in Friday's loss. Headings and Tel Jones combined to score the other 11.
Headings said the Eagles remain excited to try to bring home the best trophy possible, continuing a magical run for the team's seniors.
"Ever since I was a freshman and I watched that team come down to the tournament, I've wanted to be in that place," Headings said.