PENDLETON — Of the 10 Blue Mountain Conference teams battling it out at the district basketball tournament this weekend in Pendleton, all but one are quite familiar with this portion of the season.
Seven teams return from the last year’s group, including the boys’ No. 1 seed Weston-McEwen, who sat in the same spot in 2011. Two more squads missed last year’s district dance, but only had a year layoff after playing in the Pendleton Convention Center in 2010.
The odd men out come from Irrigon, which has struggled since re-forming as a school with athletics in 2005. This marks the first season the Knights have found their way into the postseason.
From the fourth-seeded Knights on up to the TigerScots, you’ll find a pack of very dangerous teams. All four are ranked in the top 11 in the state for Class 2A.
On the girls’ side, Pilot Rock is back to defend its BMC district title from last year, when the Rockets ousted Enterprise in the championship game. They’ll have to knock off Union first on Friday for a chance to meet the Outlaws in this go-around, as Enterprise gets the luxury of rest with the No. 1 seed.
That may be difficult for coach Butch Wilson’s girls, who looked like title favorites for most of the season before free-falling at the end of the schedule, losing three of four. Change has got to happen fast, the coach said.
“Our offense just doesn’t exist right now,” said Wilson, whose team hasn’t eclipsed 44 points in nearly a month.
Similar to the boys’ side, the four girls’ squads at the top could each make a run to the state playoffs, with only three from this weekend’s action getting a pass.
Fans can purchase passes for one day — $6 for adults and $4 students — or bundle tickets for both days.
No. 5 Weston-McEwen (18-5, 13-1 Blue Mountain), 1st seed in tournament
The TigerScots have allowed the fewest points of any Blue Mountain Conference team at 48 per game, but are also the second-lowest scoring playoff team in this bracket.
Weston-McEwen, winner of 10 straight, gets a bye until Saturday where they will face either Pilot Rock or Stanfield for the top spot heading into the state tournament. The TigerScots have fared better against Pilot Rock, winning both matchups this season including a 67-29 smashing on Feb. 3.
Conversely, they are 1-2 against Stanfield, which gave the TigerScots their only league loss. The other loss occurred at the D.A. Davidson Classic tournament in December. All three games were decided by seven points or fewer.
Weston-McEwen came into last year’s district tournament as the top seed as well, only to lose to Enterprise in the championship game.
No. 11 Pilot Rock (19-4, 11-3 BMC), 2nd seed
Pilot Rock started the season on a tear, rolling to 14-1 before getting dirty just before the finish line with a 5-3 record in the last eight games. That included back-to-back losses to Stanfield and Weston-McEwen, followed by a triple-overtime Houdini job against Irrigon.
Pilot Rock split with Stanfield on the year and the teams’ offenses match up fairly well. The Rockets scored with the most frequency of any Blue Mountain team this year, 64.3 points per game. That’s just ahead of Stanfield, which had the second-best scoring offense.
The Rockets last made a run out of the district tournament three years ago when they took first. Pilot Rock ended its season in the quarterfinals of the state tournament that year.
No. 8 Stanfield (16-8, 10-4 BMC), 3rd seed
The last time Stanfield set foot in the Pendleton Convention Center, the home of this year’s Blue Mountain Conference district tournament, the Tigers were upset by Irrigon at the Bounc’n Cancer Classic in January. That loss broke an eight-game winning streak that had propelled Stanfield up the conference ladder.
The Tigers split the conference season series with Weston-McEwen, Pilot Rock and Irrigon, and added a non-league win over the TigerScots as well.
Stanfield has the worst scoring defense of any playoff team this year, giving up 56 points per game.
No. 9 Irrigon (14-9, 9-5 BMC), 4th seed
Irrigon is making its first trip to the Blue Mountain District tournament in the school’s modern athletic history. The school re-formed in 2005.
The Knights beat Heppner twice by comfortable margins this season but didn’t fare well against the Top 3. Irrigon stole a win from Stanfield in one of the teams’ two matches but lost a pair to both Weston-McEwen and Pilot Rock. Irrigon took Weston-McEwen to double overtime in one game and Pilot Rock to triple overtime in another before losing both.
No. 25 Heppner (9-13, 5-9 BMC), 5th seed
Heppner is the little brother in this tournament, ranked 13 spots in the state behind the other teams in the Blue Mountain districts. The Mustangs lost to the other four teams in four consecutive games in January, going 0-8 against them on the season.
Heppner struggled to put up points this season, with the second-lowest per game average at 49.5 in the BMC. The Mustangs scored almost 300 total points fewer than the next playoff team in Weston-McEwen. The silver lining: Heppner’s defense ranked among the tops in the league this season at 53 points per game allowed.
No. 4 Enterprise (19-4, 11-3 Blue Mountain), 1st seed in tournament
Enterprise’s lifeline has been defense this season, with a Blue Mountain-low 36.4 points allowed per game. Nobody has scored more than 51 on the Outlaws this season, and that one 50-point performance came in the third game of the year.
If one team does have Enterprise’s number, though, it’s Pilot Rock. The Rockets account for two of the Outlaws’ four losses.
Enterprise is backing into the district tournament after a 43-40 loss at Union in their last game of the season.
No. 7 Union (17-6, 10-4 BMC), 2nd seed
The Bobcats may be the hottest team in this bracket, having won seven straight games that included a win over each of the four other playoff teams. Union finished conference play 9-1, making up for a bad start.
Union took two of three from Pilot Rock as the teams also met in a non-conference game at the La Grande Optimist Tournament in December.
The Bobcats are the only team on the girls’ side that wasn’t at the district tournament last season.
No. 15 Pilot Rock (14-9, 10-4 BMC), 3rd seed
After ruling the Blue Mountain Conference for six weeks, the Rockets’ season took a nose dive in the final week of league play. Pilot Rock lost three of its last four games, all to playoff-bound teams. Pilot Rock fell from first to third in the standings in that time.
One of those late-season losses came at home against Union, the team Pilot Rock draws first in the district tournament. The squads split their season series, each win coming by five points. The Rockets were 2-0 against top-seeded Enterprise and split with the other three teams.
Pilot Rock was middle of the pack in both scoring offense and defense this season, and will likely need to improve in both categories to become district tourney champs like last season.
No. 11 Weston-McEwen (14-9, 9-5 BMC), 4th seed
The TigerScots started the year hot, winning seven of nine before an unusual letdown around the heart of the conference schedule. Postponed games due to weather left Weston-McEwen out of balance when they returned to the court and it showed during a 2-4 slide in late January.
The team may have rebounded with a pair of convincing wins during the final weekend of the season, albeit over two non-playoff teams in Stanfield and Irrigon. The TigerScots record against tournament teams is negative: 0-2 against Enterprise with splits of the other three teams.
Weston-McEwen scored more points than any other team in the BMC this season (50 ppg) but no other playoff team allowed as many (44.5 ppg). The team could struggle in Pendleton as they went 7-8 away from Athena this season and 7-1 at home.
No. 25 Elgin (9-11, 5-9 BMC), 5th seed
Elgin sneaked into the last playoff spot ahead of Irrigon, fueled by a victory over Pilot Rock on the last day of the season coupled with a Knights’ loss. Elgin finished the year on a 4-1 Blue Mountain Conference run while Irrigon lost its last six games, most painfully a pair to Elgin by a total of six points.
The Huskies are the only bracket team with a sub-.500 record. They have just one win over the other four teams still alive.
Expect low-scoring games with Elgin on the court. The Huskies have scored the fewest total points this season in the conference while also giving up the fewest total during their 20-game schedule.