SEASIDE — “Normal” teams usually don’t play well following long layoffs. The Seaside Gulls, however, are not your average team.
Long layoffs have very little effect on the Seaside boys basketball team — in fact, the Gulls usually get better between games.
They struggled at times Friday night in a first-round game of the state playoffs, but for the third time this season, Seaside overcame a long period with no games … and romped their way to another win, 68-49, over Cascade.
It was Seaside’s 19th consecutive victory at home, going back to last season.
The latest win at the Gulls’ Nest secured Seaside’s annual trip to the state tournament, where the Gulls will open against Gladstone in a Thursday quarterfinal game (1:30 p.m.) at Pacific University.
The winner of Thursday’s quarterfinal will play either North Bend or Philomath in the semifinals.
“Whenever we have a big break, we always come out the next game on fire,” said Seaside senior Attikin Babb. “We spend a lot of time working out, and we have a trainer who works us really hard, so we make sure to keep in shape.”
Babb scored a game-high 16 points, and the Gulls opened the second half with a critical 13-2 run to put the game away.
The No. 16 seed Cougars trailed 22-9 early in the second quarter, but fought back to within 27-24 late in the first half.
Seaside forced turnovers on Cascade’s first three possessions of the third period, and the Gulls scored several times in transition to pull away.
In addition to Seaside’s win, three other Cowapa League teams scored victories in Friday’s Sweet 16 round.
Banks, Tillamook and Valley Catholic are also among the final eight in Forest Grove, giving the Cowapa four teams in the quarterfinals.
If the Cougars had any doubts about the Gulls being the No. 1 team in the state — those doubts were erased by the end of the first quarter.
Cascade’s only lead was 4-2 in the opening minute.
Jackson Januik and Hunter Thompson hit back-to-back 3-pointers for Seaside, and the Gulls were off and running, leading 15-6 after one quarter.
Minutes later, Duncan Thompson scored on an offensive rebound to give Seaside a 22-9 advantage.
The Cougars rallied and kept the game close, but three straight Cascade turnovers and scores for the Gulls (Januik, Payton Westerholm and Babb) pushed Seaside’s lead to 36-24.
More baskets in transition from Chase Januik, Westerholm and Babb made it 42-29 with under three minutes left in the third, and the Cougars never recovered.
After the early lead, “We got a little lenient and got into some foul trouble, so the game got slowed down,” said Babb, who had three fouls early and spent most of the second quarter on the bench. “And that’s the opposite of what we do. We like to pick up the pace and get going.”
Seaside coach Bill Westerholm said, “Our defense leads to our runs that we make. We had a couple of nice steals that created a run for us. We played a better offensive game in the second half, and a smarter defensive game. The first half we looked like we hadn’t played for two weeks.”
Following Seaside’s last game against Valley Catholic Feb. 21, the 10-day layoff was nothing new for the Gulls.
In December, Seaside went nine days without a game, then crushed Elma, 97-40; and in their longest layoff without a game (Dec. 28 to Jan. 12), the Gulls returned to the court after 15 days off and pounded Newport, 83-67.
“We’ve had plenty of (long breaks), and when we’ve come back from those in the past, we’ve shot the ball really well,” Westerholm said. “We didn’t shoot the ball very well in the first half tonight.
“We weren’t very patient, we took some quick shots and some deep shots, and sometimes when our kids don’t hit shots, they get down on themselves a little. Because that’s what they live for — to score.
“We settled down in the second half and started running our offense a little better against their 1-3-1,” he said. “We got better looks, Attikin started running the baseline and hit a couple shots. We got the ball inside and got to the free-throw line, which gave us that cushion.”
The challenge later this week will be three games in three days — two afternoon games followed by (the Gulls are hoping) a very late game Saturday.
The good news — the Gulls hold a huge advantage over the rest of the field. Seaside has an 8-1 record against teams the Gulls will (or might) see in Forest Grove, having already played Gladstone, North Bend, Banks, Tillamook and Valley Catholic.
“We’re going to be outmatched or mismatched many times in the next three games that we play,” Westerholm said. “But we’ve been mismatched in the past. I’m not worried about mismatches, because our kids have a lot of fight in ’em.”