With district tournaments just around the corner, a few local basketball teams have long since punched their tickets for postseason play.
The Nixyaawii boys (20-2, 10-0 OOL) are the top contenders in the Old Oregon League, with just two games remaining in the regular season.
One is against Elgin, a team they beat 106-34 in January; and the other is against Joseph, the league’s No. 2 team, which the Golden Eagles previously turned away 52-35.
The Heppner boys (16-7, 12-1 BMC) are No. 1 in the Blue Mountain Conference, and host Pilot Rock on Wednesday for their final regular-season game.
For the girls, Ione (17-3, 12-1 BSL) will end the Big Sky League on Saturday at South Wasco County — the league’s No. 2 team, who the Cardinals topped 49-41 in mid-January.
While some teams have secured spots in the postseason, there are other teams in the area whose future is still uncertain.
The Echo girls (10-12, 8-4 BSL) are looking at a spot in the top four for their Big Sky League district tournament, which tips off Feb. 15 in Madras.
For a team that has has five freshmen on its roster, coach Heather Madison is impressed with her team’s performance.
“It’s been a huge season for us on the mental side of the sport,” Madison said.
“My team is so young, and we have some young leaders. We’ve had to overcome a lot, and for us to be as competitive as we are, I’m happy.”
The Cougars advanced to the playoffs the past two years, but the state tournament was just out of their reach.
“It seems like we can’t make it past districts,” Madison said. “I think there’s a 50/50 chance that we can make it further this year. We match up with the other teams really well — we’re all loaded with guards and speed. I think it just depends on if we can show up, play our game, and stay out of foul trouble.”
Echo will host South Wasco County on Friday, a team that beat them 62-35 in an earlier contest. They’ll play at Condon/Wheeler on Saturday to end the regular season.
The Heppner girls (15-8, 7-4 BMC) are the No. 3 seed in the 2A Blue Mountain Conference, and if the Mustangs hope to keep that position, they’ll have to win their home game on Wednesday against Pilot Rock.
Last year, the Mustangs made it to the state playoffs before losing their first-round contest to Kennedy, which would go on to win the state title.
“We’ve had some ups and downs this season,” Heppner coach Robert Wilson said.
“I really thought we’d be either No. 1 or No. 2 (in the league), but I’m looking forward to the opportunity to go to districts.”
Meanwhile, the Stanfield (10-12, 6-4 BMC) boys have to win their next two games if they hope to reach the postseason.
The Tigers are ranked as the BMC’s No. 4 team, and the league only takes the top two teams to the playoffs. TheT igers will have to beat No. 6 Weston-McEwen and No. 2 Grant Union if they hope to secure the No. 2 spot.
“I absolutely think we can pull it off,” coach Devin Bailey said.
“We lost to Weston-McEwen earlier in the season, but I really think we’re the better team. And we beat Grant Union by 16 points when we last played them. It really hinges on if my guys want it or not.”
The Umatilla boys (17-5, 5-3 EOL) can hold onto their No. 2 spot in the Eastern Oregon League with a victory Saturday over Burns.
“We should have an automatic berth into playoffs,” said coach Scott Bow. “We’ve had to deal with some roster changes this year, but otherwise, we’re playing pretty well.”
The Riverside girls (11-10, 3-5 EOL) will have to win their final two games to slide into the league’s No. 3 spot, but they have some stiff competition ahead.
The Pirates’ regular season closes with a game against the No. 1 Nyssa Bulldogs on Saturday.
“We played really bad in our season’s first games,” said coach Clair Costello. “But if we shoot the ball well and score more than 30 points, I think we can do it. We can hold teams down.”