One might consider the Wheeler Falcons' 0-17 Class 1A high school boys basketball record to be a big disappointment.

But it's not.

It's not, considering the Wheeler Falcons have played with no more than six players this season and for the most part only five with injuries and frustration over coming up short on the final score.

It's not, considering the basketball team only has 10 male students to choose from in the high school population of 31 students.

It's not, considering that the six players on the team have stuck with it, play for the love the game and will remember this experience for the rest of their lives.

Looking at the overall picture, Rick Moore, Chase Schultz, Jake Wimer, Mike Moore, Roberto Chamu and Adrian Blakley have shown the game of basketball is about more than just wins or losses.

"It's tough to practice with six let alone play a game," Wheeler head coach Rolland Hansen said. "We've had kids sick and injuries, but they show up and give it their all every time they hit the floor."

Small-town basketball thrives in Eastern Oregon communities and Wheeler is no different, but this year numbers are down and the seniors on the team have struggled through what has a been a frustrating season at times.

"This is my senior season and I was hoping we would combine with Condon, but we didn't, so we've played with what we have," said Rick Moore, who leads the team in scoring at just under 20 points per game. "It's been a little frustrating, but we just love to play and we really want to get a win."

Making things even more difficult, Wimer suffered an ankle injury that took him out of the lineup for some time. Three times this season Wheeler was forced to finish the game with four players because players fouled out.

Despite the situation, Hansen said his team plays to the final buzzer - no matter how many players are on the court.

"It's been tough to play and kind of exhausting," Wimer said. "Practice is hard because we condition a lot and we can't play five on five."

Hansen said the Falcons do a lot of 2-on-3 drills or sometimes community members will practice with the team to give them the 5-on-5 experience.

"We have to do a lot of things differently," Hansen said. "We try to keep practices upbeat and loose."

Conditioning becomes a major factor for a team with a limited roster.

"You have to play aggressive, but you also don't want to pick up cheap fouls," said Rick Moore, who has played all but two minutes this season. "We have to be in pretty good shape, but just playing does that."

Motivation has been the key to keeping up the team's morale and Hansen said he's been impressed with the kids' attitudes despite the overall record.

"Whenever we're down and come back to make the other team put their starters back in, our team loves it," Hansesn said. "It could be really easy for these guys to bag it considering all the losses, but they play to win.

"I really want to see these kids get a win, but we just want them to have fun and improve."

While the Falcons haven't won a game, most of their games have been close.

"It feels bad sometimes when we play close and lose, but we're OK," Chamu said.

The community stands behind the team, calling them the "Iron Five" and school principal Jack Lorts said he couldn't be prouder of a team.

"It has been a lot of fun watching these kids play and I get a lot of positive comments about them," Lorts said. "They really hang in there and the whole community is behind them because they show no quit."

"It's a lot easier to go through a winning season than a losing season, but the kids love to play and that keeps them going," Hansen said. "It hurts some to lose the close ones, but the kids always bounce back ready to play."

While many schools will remember a big win or an overtime loss, the Wheeler Falcons take slightly different memories with them.

The opening night for the Falcons, Schultz overplayed a ball and landed in the third row, where he encountered a plate of chili-cheese nachos. Trying to keep five kids on the court, Schultz had to run over to the bench where Hansen used a towel to remove the mess so Schultz could play.

"That was so funny and it was one that I will always remember," said Schultz of the incident. "It's things like that we will remember and not so much our record.

"We have a lot of personal victories and it's been fun."

Another memorable moment for the Falcons came when Wimer drilled a half-court shot against Ione.The irony, however, was he was attempting a pass, but the ball inadvertently went into the basket.

"That was awesome and the whole crowd went crazy," Schultz said.

Through it all the Falcons hope to get a win for their ultimate season highlight, but with only five games left on the schedule time is running short.

"If we could get a win that would be awesome," Rick Moore said. "We really want to beat Cascade Locks."

Wheeler hosts Cascade Locks at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and every player mentioned they would like to beat Cascade Locks more than any other team in the conference.

"If we get a win that would make the season," Schultz said. "That would mean so much to this team after all the hard work we've put in."

Joe McHaney can be reached at (800) 522-0255 (ext. 1-304) or by e-mail at jmchaney@eastoregonian.com.

Season full of memories

Despite an 0-17 season, it's been a memorable year for Wheeler's boys basketball team, which at times, has only had five players. Among the memorable moments:

• The opening night for the Falcons, Chase Schultz overplayed a ball and landed in the third row, where he encountered a plate of chili-cheese nachos. Trying to keep five kids on the court, Schultz had to run over to the bench where Wheeler head coach Rolland Hansen used a towel to remove the mess so Schultz could play.

"That was so funny and it was one that I will always remember," said Schultz of the incident. "It's things like that we will remember and not so much our record.

"We have a lot of personal victories and it's been fun."

• Another memorable moment for the Falcons came when Jake Wimer drilled a half-court shot against Ione.The irony, however, was he was attempting a pass, but the ball inadvertently went into the basket.

"That was awesome and the whole crowd went crazy," Schultz said.

Quotable:

"It's a lot easier to go through a winning season than a losing season, but the kids love to play and that keeps them going,. It hurts some to lose the close ones, but the kids always bounce back ready to play."

- Wheeler head coach Rolland Hansen

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