Last year, the Umatilla boys basketball team put together a dream season as the Vikings captured both the regular-season and district championships in the Eastern Oregon League. It earned the Vikings a home first round playoff game and big dreams about a playoff run.
However, that run ended earlier than the Vikings wanted. Umatilla drew the No. 8 seed and hosted No. 9 Horizon Christian — a matchup the Vikings were frustrated with since Horizon Christian finished the regular season No. 6 in the OSAA rankings — and the Hawks handed the Vikings a 66-40 defeat.
As luck would have it, the two teams are set to face off in the first round again this season, except in a different gym. The No. 12 Vikings are the road team this time, traveling to No. 5 Horizon Christian looking to return an upset to the Hawks.
The Hawks (18-8 overall) are fresh off of a 61-55 victory over No. 2 Dayton in the West Valley League championship and have won four straight. The Hawks returns 6-foot-7 center Anthony Sprauer, who put up a game-high 28 points against the Vikings in the previous meeting, as well as 6-foot-1 guard Travis Schiele who went for 10 points last year.
The Vikings (20-6) won the Eastern Oregon League regular-season championship, but most recently lost a heartbreaker to Irrigon in the district title game. It could be the final go around for seniors Kaden Webb and Seth Cranston, who have helped transform the Vikings program in recent years.
Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. in Tualatin.
NO. 9 CATLIN GABEL AT NO. 8 IRRIGON — On Saturday afternoon, the Irrigon Knights will start their second postseason in Class 3A as the Catlin Gabel Eagles in the first round of the 2018 playoffs.
The Eagles (22-5) finished third in the Lewis & Clark League behind No. 1 De La Salle North Catholic and No. 10 Oregon Episcopal. Catlin Gabel played a tough preseason schedule, including No. 6 Cascade Christian (won 55-48) and Class 2A No. 2 Columbia Christian (lost 52-49).
Cascade Christian was also on Irrigon’s schedule, with the Knights falling 51-47 on Jan. 15, however that was Irrigon’s toughest preseason team. The Knights played a relatively light schedule, with eight against Class 2A teams and two against Class 4A (Mac-Hi).
A matchup to watch in this game will be Irrigon’s 6-foot-5 center Johnny Phillips against Catlin Gabel’s 6-foot-9 center Ned Williamson. Both seniors have used their size to dominate teams this season, and will battle it out head-to-head on Saturday to try and give their team the upper hand.
Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. at Irrigon High School.
NO. 10 KENNEDY AT NO. 7 PILOT ROCK — On Saturday, the Pilot Rock Rockets are back in the OSAA playoffs for the first time since 2012-2013 and have a tough matchup for their first round game.
The Kennedy Trojans come in as a deceptive No. 10 seed. The Trojans hold a middling 15-13 overall record and finished second in the Tri-River Conference, however, they come in battle-tested from a grueling schedule.
Kennedy holds wins over No. 6 Monroe (48-47) and No. 11 Vernonia (70-57), as well as Class 3A No. 6 Santiam Christian (42-37). And they suffered close losses to 3A No. 13 Amity (47-45) and 2A No. 2 Columbia Christian (68-62), and lost three times to league rival and No. 1 seed Western Mennonite.
Pilot Rock comes in 18-6 overall and has won 11 straight games dating back to Jan. 2. The Rockets are 9-0 at home this season, with the Trojans being 7-6 in true road games.
Tipoff is at 4:30 p.m. at Pilot Rock High School.
NO. 16 STANFIELD AT NO. 1 WESTERN MENNONITE — On Saturday, the Stanfield Tigers face a tough task of playing the No. 1 team in the state in the first round.
The Tigers (12-15 overall) knew that were likely the No. 16 seed after clinching their conference’s second playoff berth, but are embracing the opportunity.
“We’re happy we get to go,” coach Devin Bailey said after the district title game on Saturday. “Only 16 teams get to practice and play and the fact that we punched our ticket to the final 16 is awesome ... With our backs against the wall we play well, and Saturday we’ll have our backs against the wall again.”
Western Mennonite (23-3) comes into the game winners of 13 straight, and boast an offense capable of scoring a lot of points. The Pioneers have topped 90-points five times and had a season-high of 104, which they hit twice.
Tipoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Western Mennonite High School in Salem.
NO. 12 DAYS CREEK AT NO. 5 NIXYAAWII — On Saturday, the Nixyaawii Golden Eagles begin the Class 1A playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the state as winners of seven straight and 16 of their last 17 games.
They’ll host the Days Creek Wolves (19-8), who finished second in the Skyline League this season. The Wolves average 48.2 points per game and give up an average of 41.1 points per game.
On paper, it’s a tough matchup for the Wolves against the Golden Eagles (23-3), who hold arguably the best offense in Class 1A. Nixyaawii scored a total of 1,787 points this season, an average of 68.7 per game, which was tied with the No. 2 Sherman Huskies in the entire classification.
Tipoff is set for 4:30 p.m. at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton.
NO. 9 CENTRAL LINN AT NO. 8 HEPPNER — On Saturday, the Heppner Mustangs will play their first playoff game since the 2012-2013 season when they host the Central Linn Cobras for a Class 2A first round game.
The Mustangs (15-6 overall) are riding high after their district championship victory over Weston-McEwen on Saturday at the Pendleton Convention Center, and want a win over the Cobras to earn a trip back to the Round-Up City.
In their way are the Cobras (18-8), who finished third in the Tri-River Conference, behind No. 1 Kennedy and No. 6 St. Paul. The Cobras average 41.2 points per game and have a stingy defense that gives up only 33.9 points per game.
Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. at Heppner High School.
NO. 13 WESTON-MCEWEN AT NO. 4 GRANT UNION — On Friday night, the Weston-McEwen TigerScots aim to rebound from their district championship disappointment with some revenge against Grant Union.
The TigerScots (16-9 overall) and Prospectors (20-3) met in the preseason on Jan. 4 in Athena, where the Prospectors ran the TigerScots off the floor with a 92-54 win. Grant Union has won 12 of 13 games since that last meeting, most recently knocking off Enterprise for the third time to win the Wapati League district title.
Weston-McEwen won eight straight after that Jan. 4 defeat, but won only two of their last five games.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Grant Union High School.
No. 15 CAMAS VALLEY AT NO. 2 NIXYAAWII — On Saturday, the Nixyaawii Golden Eagles will start their attempt at a second consecutive state championship as they host Camas Valley in the Class 1A second round.
Nixyaawii sits a perfect 25-0 on the season and have the most prolific offense in the state with a total of 1,825 points scored, or an average of 73 per game. On paper, the Golden Eagles appear to be no match for Camas Valley, a team that’s 15-11 overall and that has scored only 779 points all season (29.9 average).
Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. at Sunridge Middle School in Pendleton.