BAKER CITY — The 1A state quarterfinals matchup Thursday will see two championship-worthy teams facing off once again.
The Nixyaawii and Trinity Lutheran boys basketball teams aren’t just in for a high-stakes game simply because they are both the district champions in their respective leagues — their quarterfinal meeting will be the first time the two teams have faced off since the Golden Eagles defeated the Saints 59-42 in last year’s championship game.
Their contest this year is scheduled for Thursday at 3:15 p.m. at Baker High School.
“I think it raises the stakes a little bit,” Nixyaawii coach Shane Rivera said. “I would consider Trinity Lutheran to be one of, if not the top team in the tournament. To meet them early on is going to be a huge challenge, and I’m sure they know that, too.”
The Mountain Valley League’s No. 1 Saints are coming into Thursday’s contest riding the momentum of Saturday’s 59-41 second-round defeat over Mohawk. They hold a 24-4 overall record and went 16-2 in conference action.
They currently are on a nine-game win streak, and are averaging 66 points per game this season. Their roster features the majority of the players from last year’s championship game.
“Going into this game, we pretty much have an idea of what kind of scenario it will be,” Rivera said. “The kids know that the challenge is big. They know Trinity Lutheran is going to be tough. Their top player (Matthew Eidler, a 6-foot, 5-inch senior wing) can play inside and outside. They have good, disciplined players.”
Nixyaawii (23-5, 11-1 OOL) is hitting the Baker High court after an 85-41 second-round home blowout over Siletz Valley. The Golden Eagles have won 16 of their past 17 games, and average 72.3 points per contest.
Despite their school being closed because of concerns related to the coronavirus, which a Wildhorse Resort & Casino employee tested presumptive positive for on Saturday, Rivera says the Golden Eagles are healthy and ready for their big rematch on Thursday.
“We had a little bit of a distraction,” Rivera said, “but we look good. The kids are healthy and excited. It’s a fairly even matchup — (Trinity Lutheran has to) play like a team in order to win. It comes down to whoever can limit their turnovers and run their defense.”
The Golden Eagles have made quarterfinal appearances every year since the 2017-18 season. They lost the 2018 quarterfinal game to Triad 50-48 and defeated Horizon Christian 66-44 last season.