HEPPNER — The Ione Cardinals have held strong in their early season tests this year with each the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams narrowly missing out on winning the Ione Basketball Bonanza over the weekend. The Ione-hosted event to open the winter sports schedule ended with the Cardinals each losing in the final game of the tournament — the boys to Riverside and the girls to Enterprise.
Each set of Cardinals, both 1-1 now, opened some eyes on the first night of the tournament with big victories over Pine Eagle. The boys’ team dropped the hammer while winning by an astonishing 70 points, 94-24. The girls’ game was closer at 51-35, but the Lady Cardinals led from whistle to whistle and controlled the tempo of the game.
Still flying high off the dominant performances at home, the Cardinals will look to stay at cruising altitude as they roll into Heppner on Friday for the Heppner Hoop Classic. The second tournament in as many weeks gives Ione a look at some of last year’s strongest Class 1A basketball programs.
The Cardinal boys will face Crane (2-0) at 4:30 p.m. Friday following the girls’ matchup.
The matchup with Crane will set the intensity level for the entire tournament, boys’ coach Dennis Stefani said. One of the best ways to judge a new team before league play sets in is to play teams that are known to be strong, like the Crane boys who finished 21-6 last season and took fourth at state.
“They’ve got a couple of their big kids back,” Stefani said. “That should be a good matchup to kind of see where we’re standing a little bit.”
Leading scorers through two games for Ione are Zac Orem who has 30 points now for the men and Shadow Kendrick, who led the ladies’ team in both games and has 31 total points.
The Heppner teams enter the tournament both coming off a loss. Heppner, the only 2A team in the tournament field, could make some waves against the crop of strong 1A teams.
Heppner gets the prime time matchup as the girls (0-1) will tip off their contest with Wallowa at 6 p.m. before the boys (1-1) take the court an hour and a half later.