PILOT ROCK — The final pieces of the Blue Mountain Conference District Tournament fell into place Thursday night when the Heppner Mustangs beat the Union Bobcats in four sets. By winning the play-in game, the Mustangs (16-11, 9-5 BMC) will take the No. 3 seed into the tournament’s semifinal game to face No. 2 Elgin (22-7, 12-2 BMC) at noon on Saturday in Pilot Rock.
The Bobcats (19-12, 9-5 BMC) — now the fourth seed — will face the fifth-seeded Stanfield Tigers (11-14, 5-9 BMC) following that game.
For Heppner, the postseason feelings started a week ago. They faced Union last Saturday knowing they needed a win and to keep winning to even force the one-game playoff with the Bobcats on Thursday. They’ve now won five straight matches heading into the district tournament.
“We’d technically in our minds already started the playoffs,” said Pam Dowdy, Heppner’s head coach. “It really gives you strength and confidence to play like that, on the edge.”
The TigerScots will be at the top waiting for a challenger to climb the mountain and meet them. Any number of teams could have found themselves at Weston-McEwen’s doorstep, White said, but now it will be up to the winner of the Elgin and Heppner matchup. The victor will meet Weston-McEwen at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Almost every time the top four teams play each other, we’re going four or five (sets),” he said. “We’re all close. Any of the teams could make the run. I think this is one of the most competitive leagues in the state and we have a tremendous amount of potential.”
The Blue Mountain Conference houses four of the top 11 Division 2A teams in the state with the TigerScots (3) at the top followed by, Heppner (5), Elgin (6) and Union (11) rounding out the top four.
Perhaps the team best equiped to go TigerScot hunting is Elgin (20-7, 12-2 BMC). The two are familiar with each other in postseason play, having met in the championship match of this tournament in each the last two years — one win apiece.
It was Elgin who gave Weston-McEwen its single conference blemish this season. The Huskies beat the previously undefeated TigerScots in five sets on Tuesday in the teams’ final league match.
“Any time we play it’s a match where you have to come with your absolute best match if you’re going to win,” White said.
The teams split a pair of league matches in 2011, with Elgin also taking a tournament match that was a best-of-three sets format.
Heppner has had success against both Weston-McEwen and Elgin, beating them both on the same day at a non-league tournament earlier this year.
The Blue Mountain Conference will send four teams to the state tournament with Weston-McEwen, Elgin and Heppner having already locked up spots. The final member of that crew will come from the conclusion of Union’s match with Stanfield.
“How we play against each other all day and the power rankings at the end of the weekend will determine the seeding,” Dowdy said. “The dust will only settle Saturday night when we’re all done.”