Tigers Narrowly Fall to Sunset in Season Opener

Senior Spencer Kuffel (#2) played his first game in over two years after tearing his ACL twice. He added eight points to the Tigard total in the 71-67 loss. (Henry Kaus/Tigard Life)

Tigard boys’ basketball take close 71-67 loss 14 months after previous season

Let’s cut right to chase. It’s the final minute of the Tigard boys’ basketball season opener at Sunset High School. The Apollos lead 68-63 in what had been a three-point game for the last quarter and a half.

Sophomore Kalim Brown, having already scored 14 points on the game, sets up to shoot close, fakes out a Sunset defender and pops up for a two-point field goal to shorten the margin back to three.

But in true Sunset fashion, they had an answer to everything. Their junior Jackson Knight was fouled at the basket and sank both free throws with 55 seconds remaining.

On the possession change, Tigard junior Aidan Krause cruised in, these points could mean everything. He put one up from beneath the rim, nothing. But grabbing the rebound with three defenders on him, he put up a second, successful attempt and it was back to a three-point game with 36 seconds to go.

In this amount of time, Sunset may as well just run out the clock. But, with a three-point lead, they took a chance and Tigard fouled them for a game-ending slipup. The final score rested in Sunset’s favor, 71-67.

“I mean, it was a good team, they made shots, couldn’t really stop them on defense honestly,” senior Spencer Kuffel said, “and also it was our first game so we were just trying to work things out, figure everything out.”

“We need to start reaching because we got in foul trouble at the end,” Brown said. “They got all those free throws and that killed us.”

But Sunset didn’t always keep the lead. Through the first quarter, lead  was swapped on four separate occasions until, finally, Sunset regained control and widened the gap to end the first quarter, 22-13.

Senior Brett Moss (#4). (Henry Kaus/Tigard Life)

Quarter two, though, would be a different story and set the pace for the remainder of the night. The Tigers fell out of their initial slump and managed to keep up with the Apollos, even finding a moment to show up Sunset.

Coming off an open-court layup from senior Jake Wihtol, and the Tigers down by six points with three minutes left in the half, Sunset held possession. Senior Brett Moss (#4) found a slip in their offense and took a steal, all the while having the court to himself. In a crowd-pleasing moment, he dashed along and dunked hard, prompting a Sunset timeout.

Although an ultimate small-margin loss for the Tigers, this was one of many chances that Tigard will play through their 12-game season. 

Wihtol led the Tigers in scoring with 21 points on two three-point field goals. Brown added 16 points with a pair of three-pointers. Kuffel also garnered eight points in his first game back while shooting four for five at the charity line.

Kuffel, a senior, had been benched for the past two seasons due to several ACL tears and played his first game of basketball that night since his freshman year.

“I was just glad to be out there with these guys. I tore my ACL twice, so I hadn’t played basketball in two years,” Kuffel said. “I didn’t know if I’d be able to play a full game of basketball, so it was good to get it out of the way.”

Overall, the Tigers shot 13 of 26 from the free-throw line and 25 of 62 from the field. There’s much to improve upon, but these athletes say they’re ready.

“We’ll be good,” Kuffel said. “Once we start knocking our shots, get in our groove, I think we could be a pretty good team.”

“I think we can build on this, we can work harder in practice, more defensively too,” Brown said. “It’s a new little group so we’re still building chemistry up.”