Routt beats PORTA/A-C for Winchester Invitational title

Routt beats PORTA/A-C for Winchester Invitational title

WINCHESTER — The Routt boys’ basketball team took the lead, played a masterful defense against one of the area’s best players and won another tight game by beating PORTA/AC Central 50-45 in the championship game of the 100th Winchester Invitational Saturday night .

It was the second time in those 100 years that Routt had reached the title game. The Rockets won both times.

“It would be nice if we finished the games a little bit better, but a win is a win. That’s all that matters,” said Routt coach Will Whalen.

PORTA/AC came out in a zone and the Rockets responded by going out from the front with an 8-2 lead after a layup by Joe Whalen after a feed from Nolan Killion, a three from Isaac Long and a three from Killion Key.

“Any time a team wants to go 2-3, we love it,” said Routt senior Michael Wilson.

“I thought our kids were coming out — ready to play,” Whalen said. “And then we just decided to let them back into the game. But they took some shots at key points. Luckily we were able to take some free throws on the course and finish them.”

Routt fans held their breath as Michael Wilson went down 5:38 to the left in the first quarter. Wilson said he was hit in the tailbone in practice and someone poked it while aiming for a rebound on Saturday night. “It’s really not a big problem,” he said. Wilson got up under his own power and walked to the bench. He returned in the first quarter at the 2:52 mark.

PORTA/AC’s Caden Christinson hit a three but Bryson Mossman responded to go 11-5 into the second quarter.

Long hit another three to open the second third, then Killion hit a three and Merwin drove and hit Wilson with a layup to make it 19-5.

“I felt like we just came out and did what we were supposed to do in the first half,” Mossman said. “We pushed on the gas a bit in the second half but we were able to get it out. And I had the feeling that we played well.”

“We did what the coach told us to do,” Killion said. “If we do that, we win. And we get up a lot. We just performed our pieces the way we were supposed to and everything worked out for us.”

Layups by Long and Killion gave Routt a 23-10 lead, then two jump shots from Wilson made it 27-16 at halftime as PORTA/AC staged a comeback.

Merwin did another excellent job on defense, holding Gavin Arthalony, who was unanimously selected to play all tournaments, to just 12 points. Merwin had a lot of help from his teammates. Sometimes Arthalony looked like a salmon swimming upstream while struggling to drive to the basket.

PORTA/AC kept Routt without a point in the first 5:44 of the third quarter, cutting the lead to 27:21 when Christinson hit a three and was later credited with a keeper’s basket. Routt came back with a jump shot from Wilson and a three-point play from Mossman, but the Bluejays went for the next six points with a Christinson basket, two Arthalony free throws, and a Christinson layup on a feed from Arthalony, cutting Routt’s lead to 32 -27 in the fourth quarter.

“We sure let them get some easy hoops,” Wilson said. “We had to fight our way through it. They’ve come close a couple of times, but we’re just a team that never gives up. We don’t care what the score is. We just want to win.”

Routt led 41-31 with 3:15 left, but three straight threes – one by Artholony and then two by Keagan Dale – cut the lead to 43-40 with 2:12 left.

Routt remained in control. A Wilson free throw, followed by two Mossman free throws and then a Wilson layup after a feed from Mossman, pushed Routt’s lead to 48-42 with less than a minute to go. A late three by Christinson and two free throws by Killion ensured the final lead.

Wilson scored 15 points to put Routt ahead, which improved to 17-1. Mossman and Killion each had 10 points.

Killion said there is something special about winning the 100th WIT. “This is something very special for us,” he said. “I think we just won it one more time and it means a lot to us. We worked really hard.”

The Rockets will make way for the brand new WIT Travel Trophy alongside the Waverly Holiday Tournament trophy they won in December. “Winning the Waverly and the Winchester is just really cool,” said Mossman.

Whalen credited tournament organizers. “It’s just a tremendous undertaking to do this and they’re doing it flawlessly,” he said.

“Really happy for the Routt community,” said the coach. “We haven’t had much success down here in 100 years. We’ve been to two league games and won both. I like the 2-0 part.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *