By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

The Stanfield Tigers better have their claws ready Thursday because they’ve got one heck of an opponent to tackle. The Tigers draw East Linn Christian in the first round of the OSAA Class 2A state basketball tournament with the game kicking off the boys action at 1:30 p.m. at the Pendleton Convention Center.

East Linn Christian has won more games than any other 2A school during the season so far while compiling a 25-3 record and a Tri-River Conference championship. The playoffs may even be the easy part of the schedule for the Eagles as the TRC boasts the top three teams in the class, with East Linn Christian sitting in the head chair.

The Eagles have won their last five games — all by 15 points or more — including wins over three of the other teams left in the playoff bracket. They then embarrassed Gold Beach in the first-round playoff game at home, 73-30 on Saturday.
 
 
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


STANFIELD — The Stanfield boys’ basketball team would have lost a fortune to a phone company with all the long distance they used in Saturday’s basketball  game against Oakridge. Instead, the Tigers (18-9) won themselves a first-round playoff game 77-59.

The win sends the Tigers to the Pendleton Convention Center to face East Linn Christian (25-3, 12-2 Tri-River Conference) in the quarterfinals of the  state tournament. That game tips at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 1.  Oakridge was eliminated with the loss.

To extend their season another game, Stanfield  connected on 14 shots from 3-point range — eight of them in the first  half — and the Warriors (17-9) couldn’t combat the artillery. The Tigers scored 55 percent of their points from beyond the arc and wouldn’t  hesitate to throw up a ball from 24 feet if given the room to do so.
 
 
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

BOARDMAN — It’s near impossible to mount a comeback if the leading team won’t miss any shots and the Riverside boys’ basketball team verified that fact Saturday night. Against an excellent shooting squad from Horizon Christian that shot above and beyond its nature, the Pirates saw their season come to an end in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs 76-71.

The Hawks from Tualatin started the game 6-for-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from the free throw line to jump out in front before Riverside (22-3, 10-0 Eastern Oregon League) could even get comfortable. It wasn’t until 1:24 left in the first quarter that a Hawk shot clanged off iron instead of grazing net.
The entire game felt like a comeback effort after Horizon Christian (19-9, 12-2 West Valley League) managed to tally 19 points in the first eight minutes, Riverside’s Omar Murillo said. The Hawks shot 70 percent in the first half and 59 percent for the game.
 
 
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Hermiston's McKenzie Byrd falls out of bounds. (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

Friday night’s basketball game in Hermiston played out like a template for any time a 20-win team hosts a 20-loss team. The hopeful underdog — a scrappy but clearly overmatched St. Helens squad in this one — comes out a-blazing early before an avalanche from the favored team — represented by the Bulldogs in this reenactment — crushes their hopes and dreams.

And so ends the 2011-12 season for the St. Helens Lions (3-22, 1-13 Northwest League) by the hands of Hermiston (20-5, 12-0 Columbia River Conference) in a  73-29 flogging in the play-in round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Hermiston moves on to the next round and will host another postseason game next Friday evening. A win there punches their ticket to Eugene and the quarterfinals of the state tournament to be held the week after.

 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

Five Eastern Oregon boys basketball teams are still alive and in search of state titles across the bottom three classes of schools this weekend. Of those teams, three get one final chance to perform in front of home crowds before it’s time for the tournaments’ final sites.

Class 3A

No. 9 HORIZON CHRISTIAN (Tualatin) at No. 8 RIVERSIDE
Saturday, 7 p.m.

A late addition to the Riverside basketball schedule is still paying dividends for the Pirates heading into their first-round playoff game against Horizon Christian this Saturday. With the Eastern Oregon League season wrapped up — a 10-0 sweep for Riverside — coach Clair Costello realized his team’s state ranking wasn’t nearly as high as one could expect from a 22-1 team.

Riverside's Marco Carranza puts up a shot in the Pirates' 76-32 win against Stanfield in December. (Photo by EJ Harris)

 
 
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

Class 2A

No. 12 PILOT ROCK at No. 5 PORTLAND CHRISTIAN
Friday, 7 p.m. at Multnomah University in Portland

Each of these two teams won their district tournaments, but did so through very different means. Portland Christian, the top seed in the Northwest League, knocked off conference rival Riverdale in the championship match by double figures. Pilot Rock, on the other hand, had to edge past the top two teams in the Blue Mountain Conference on back-to-back days to win its title.

Coach Butch Wilson is hoping the Rockets have left their regular season-ending funk behind them with the district tournament triumph. Pilot Rock lost three of four games to end the season.
 
 
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By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

After getting walloped by Pendleton in their meeting last week —a 81-32 contest that looked just as painful as it sounds — The Dalles Wahtonka was fired up for a fresh start Tuesday. If they laid on the gas from the tip off, maybe this game would be different, Eagle Indians’ post Grayson Byers said.

“We wanted to come out and give us a better chance to stay with them,” Byers said. “They’re a better team than us but we can play with them if we play hard.”

It worked — briefly. Pendleton wobbled to a 12-6 lead over the first five minutes of play before the Bucks stormed the net in a 81-47 blowout to finish their regular season slate and Columbia River Conference play. Pendleton (20-4,
12-0 CRC) broke loose on a 30-3 run from that point that lasted until just before halftime.

Pendleton's Deon Davis dunks the ball  in the Bucks' 81-47 win against the The Dalles Wahtonka. (Photo by EJ Harris)

 
 
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — The Pilot Rock boys basketball team looked like they were destined for another overtime date with Irrigon as the Knights’ Jose Romero sent up a 3-point ball at the end of regulation Saturday, a shot that would tie the game if made. The buzzer’s ringing blare in the ears of the players was replaced by celebratory screams from Irrigon fans as they watched Romero’s shot bank off the glace and in.

Lost amid the commotion in the Pendleton Convention Center, the referees in the Blue Mountain Conference District Tournament's third-place game were waving off the basket. Romero hadn’t had time to catch and shoot in the 0.3 seconds left in regulation.

The game was over. Pilot Rock had won 51-48. Romero was crushed; he collapsed to the floor.
 
 
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian


PENDLETON — The final moments of Weston-McEwen’s third-place game at the Blue Mountain Conference District Tournament on Saturday were spiked with emotion in both directions.

After trailing for most of the fourth quarter freshman TigerScot Marlene Bodmer corralled a 3/4-court pass that led to a layup at the buzzer as Weston-McEwen upset Union 43-42 for the final state playoff spot out of the conference.
 
The basket gave the game’s final 29 seconds its third lead change.

“J’Shon (Thompson) looked up, passed the ball and ‘boom,’ the ball goes in and we won,” Bodmer said. “It was a little hectic and crazy.”
 
 
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Buck Chaz Madsen lays up the ball. (Photo by EJ Harris)
By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

PENDLETON — A herd of Buckaroos students and fans swarmed the court after Friday’s 63-55 victory over the rival Hermiston Bulldogs. They danced in Hawaiian shirts, holding giant cutouts of their senior players’ faces and hoisting brooms into the air like celebratory swords after battle.

“We’re feeling wonderful,” said Buckaroo Chaz Madsen, one of several Pendleton players lost among the cheering sea for green and yellow after the game. “They beat us pretty good last year (to finish their sweep) but this was our year. And we took it.”

The Pendleton (19-4, 11-0 CRC) victory gave the Bucks a 4-0 record against Hermiston (6-15, 5-6 CRC) on the year — the reverse from last year’s relationship — but Friday’s didn’t come so easy. Pendleton won the first three games while leading for almost every second, but their most recent clash was tied through three quarters. Hermiston even held a 31-25 lead at halftime.