PENDLETON - The Weston-McEwen TigerScots waited a long time for Saturday to arrive and made the most of it with a 50-40 victory over Umatilla in the championship game of the Columbia Basin Conference boys basketball district tournament.
Though the TigerScots last played nine days ago, they've been waiting a lot longer than that for the chance to return to the Pendleton Convention Center. Fifty-one weeks to be exact, as the team realized the goal it set following last year's elimination by Warrenton in the state tournament.
"Last year we found out we belonged at the state tournament," Weston-McEwen coach Scott Pumphrey said. "This year we want to go back and do some damage and make some noise. We're using this as a stepping stone to next week."
The TigerScot taking the largest steps Saturday was Zach Johnson, who was a monster in the middle, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
"Weston-McEwen played real good ball," Vikings coach Tony Villanueva said. "They got it into Zach and he took care of it and did what he was supposed to do."
The Vikings came into the contest at a severe disadvantage. Friday's thrilling overtime victory over Heppner, which propelled them into the state tournament, took a lot out of the team.
"We gave it everything we had," Villanueva said. "The kids played a good first half, but they got real tired. Some of the turnovers that we had in the third and fourth quarter were because we didn't move. We just didn't have any legs left."
The Vikings managed to hold their own with Weston-McEwen in the first half as the score was tied at halftime. Near the end of the third quarter Umatilla was noticeably slowing down and the TigerScots were quick to take advantage of it, primarily with Johnson in the middle.
"We played real well as a team," Johnson said. "We moved the ball around inside and kicked it back out."
The Vikings were within five points with three minutes remaining, but Johnson iced the victory with a 3-point play, followed by an acrobatic one-handed putback of a teammate's missed shot.
Eric Delph added 15 points and four assists and three steals for the TigerScots, while T.J. Parrish led Weston-McEwen with five assists.
Tony Villanueva Jr. led Umatilla with 12 points and recorded three steals. Chris Wyland also had three steals and seven assists.
Even after watching the Vikings play the night before, Weston-McEwen didn't try to do anything other than play its style of basketball.
"The game plan was just to play good basketball," Pumphrey said. "We knew they were tired but we didn't really want to alter our style."
The TigerScots showed some signs on not playing in more than a week in the early going, connecting on just 30 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half, compared with 52 percent over the final two quarters.
"We were a little rusty in the first half, but Pumphrey said he got the WD-40 out at halftime and sprayed it off," Johnson said.
The Vikings were taking the loss in stride, having accomplished one of their goals in reaching the state tournament, where all 16 teams will start with a fresh slate.
"I wasn't disappointed at all because I felt my kids played as hard as they could today," Coach Villanueva said. "We'll be ready to play in the state tournament and see what happens."