Albany — The Redhawks came to Linn-Benton Community College on Saturday night looking to keep a perfect season alive, facing off with a high tempo Sweet Home Huskies squad whose only loss coming in was to North Marion. With first year head coach Tim Matuszak leading the charge on the sideline, South Albany dueled all night long with the Huskies and with a monster second half from Isaiah Gilliam, the Redhawks remained undefeated going into their next showdown with Woodburn to open 2020.
South Albany opened the game with a 3-0 lead before Sweet Home got on the board in the opening minute of the game. Leading 5-4, South Albany got a 4-0 run to make it a 9-4 advantage midway through the first quarter. A Hunter Coulter trey made it 9-7, and after South Albany made it 13-7, a 5-0 run from the Huskies made it 13-12 before Chase Mello put the Redhawks ahead 15-12 after one quarter of play.
Trailing 17-12 early in the second, an Aiden Tyler bucket and Casey Tow’s three free throws on a South Albany foul tied it up at 17 apiece in the early part of the second quarter. Now in a 21-20 game, the Redhawks got an individual 7-0 run from Gilliam to take a 27-21 lead midway through the second quarter. The teams traded blows for the rest of the quarter, and the Redhawks led 33-27 at the half over Sweet Home.
Ayden Foster opened the second half with four free throws, extending the Redhawks lead to 37-27 early in the third. Zach Luttmer drilled a trey for Sweet Home to make it 39-32, but Foster and Kenyon McGlothan went on a 4-0 run to bring it back to double digits 43-32. Coulter responded with an individual 5-0 run to cut it back to 43-37 in favor of South Albany. Gilliam and Foster went on another 5-0 run and made it 48-37, as the Redhawks and Huskies traded punches on their way to 52-43 lead after three quarters.
The Redhawks blew it open to start the fourth quarter, as Gilliam put up five points and McGlothan contributed a bucket to make it 59-43 early in the fourth. Arbey Mercado drilled a trey to make it 63-45 South Albany midway through the final frame, and although the Huskies fought hard to the end, the Redhawks were simply too much to handle and they remained undefeated with a 71-59 victory. Isaiah Gilliam finished with 32 points, Ayden Foster had 16 points for South Albany.
After keeping perfection in tact, South Albany’s Ayden Foster and Isaiah Gilliam discussed their team’s hot start, their preparation for Sweet Home, keys to staying undefeated, and things to improve upon.
Ayden Foster on South Albany’s 8-0 start, “The big key has really been buying into a new coach and the new system he brought in, so we’ve been focusing hard on trying to learn the new system and its really helped us succeed.”
Isaiah Gilliam on preparing for Sweet Home, “Our Coach talked about everything that they would be running, so we went out there and put out some things that they’ve probably never seen before, and we were working a 1-3-1 so that was pretty much it.”
Ayden Foster on keys to winning the Mid-Willamette Conference, “Staying humble, I mean starting 8-0 doesn’t mean anything and we could finish 8-16, so stay humble, keep it going. Keep everything that we’ve been taught through league and stay on it.”
Isiah Gilliam on the Redhawks needs for improvement, “Definitely our mental game. Basketball is a huge mental game and we just need to work on staying together. We can win, we can get buckets, but its all about staying together and sticking together as family and brothers.”
South Albany (8-0, 1-0) travels to Woodburn on January 7th, Sweet Home (8-2) hosts Elmira on January 3rd.