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- Written by Bruce McCain
- Published on March 2, 2013
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#1 Irrigon (28-0) to Face #6 Oakland in 2A Championship Game
PENDLETON - #1 Irrigon will take its top ranking and 28-0 record into Saturday’s 2A boys championship game against #6 Oakland. Playing before a capacity crowd for Friday’s afternoon semifinal, the Knights used a 17-9 final period to put away #5 Western Mennonite, 49-39. Irrigon’s win ensured the Blue Mountain Conference will place its first boys team in the 2A title game, but a BMC champion was not guaranteed by the end of the night.
In the Friday nightcap semifinal, #6 Oakland held off #2 Pilot Rock, 50-42, to reach the 2A championship game for the first time since 2006 when Jeff Clark’s team defeated Santiam Christian in two overtimes. The last time an undefeated team reached the championship game was Central Linn in 2010, when Central Linn took a 26-0 record into the finale, but lost to a 21-8 Portland Christian team.
But with the BMC placing a team in both the girls and boys championship game, as well as in both 3rd place games, the Pendleton Convention Center may see a tournament record attendance on Saturday and for the week.
And the last 2A boys team to go undefeated in a season? Jeff Clark’s Oakers (30-0) in 2000, before Irrigon High School existed.
#1 Irrigon 49 - #5 Western Mennonite 39
Following an all-BMC girls semifinal, by the time the 3:15 boys semifinal tipped off, fans were looking for seats on the top row of the convention center. With Irrigon Knights fans decked out in black, with support from the Union and Heppner leftover fans, Western Mennonite was essentially playing a road playoff game. For a one period, at least, the Pioneers quieted the crowd, leading 8-6. But the Knights picked things up in the second period, leading only 18-16 at halftime.
After a 14-14 third period, Pioneer coach Gary Hull was right in this game, trailing only 32-30 heading into the final period. But Irrigon did not crack, but instead rode the crowd energy to a 17-9 final quarter that sent the eight-year old high school into Saturday’s championship game.
Coach Jake McElligott’s team showed a balance and resilience required for championship teams. With BMC POY Anthony Landeros fouling out after only six points scored, someone else had to step up and junior Ernesto Aquilera and freshman Fredy Vera answered the call. Aquilera finished with a nice double-double with 16 points and an equal number of rebounds. Vera stepped in and contributed 12 points, seven boards and two assists off the bench. Jose Romero had a solid post game with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Western Mennonite was led by Victor Hess’s 16 points and nine rebounds. Malcolm Stovall added 10 rebounds with six points. The Knights shut down Pioneer sharpshooter Wyatt Roth, holding the sophomore to just 1-8 shooting and zip beyond the arc.
With the win, Irrigon is poised to become the first 2A boys team to go undefeated since 2000, when Oakland pulled off the feat. Three years ago, Central Linn took a 26-0 record into the final game, but fell short. The irony is that for the Knights to equal Jeff Clark’s record set at the turn of the 21st century, they must defeat Clark to do it.
#6 Oakland 50 - #2 Pilot Rock 42
There is no question 2013 is the year of the Blue Mountain Conference, with the BMC sending a total of six boys and girls teams to Pendleton. Pilot Rock was one fo three schools, along with Oakland and Western Mennonite, to send both. With Irrigon already secured its place in Saturday’s championship game, all focus of Friday night turned to Pilot Rock and the possibility of an all-BMC title game, like the TRC and NWL have pulled off in years past.
But standing in the way of a Knights-Rockets dream game was an Oakland team coached by a man who has his share of blue trophies back home. With a 2A football championship already in the case this year, coach Clark, who also serves as Oakland’s athletic director, would like to add a boys basketball trophy this year as well. It took a 19-12 final quarter to finally put the Oakers into the title game; but it wasn’t easy.
Pilot Rock lived up to its #2 ranking by outrebounding Oakland, 41-38, and committing fewer turnovers, 12 vs 19. But the Pilot Rock offense eventually disintegrated into disorganized mayhem as the Rockets resorted to launching 21 3-point shots, making only three, while hitting just 17 of 66 floor attempts in the game. Jason GrosJacques had another solid game inside, finishing with 11 points on 4 of 8 shooting. But guard Josh Barkley finished with just eight points on 3 of 22 shooting, including just 1 of 12 3-point attempts.
Oakland, by contrast, won this game at the free throw line, making 22 of 29 attempts, compared to Pilot Rock’s 5 of 12. The Oakers got double figure games from starters Colton Reber (10 points, 8 rebounds) and Connor Dolan. But for the second game in a row, the savior for Oakland was Jeb Harper. Against Vernonia on Wednesday, the two-way all-state football player scored 14 points off the bench. Friday night, Harper led all scorers with 16 points in 22 minutes off the bench.
With the win, Oakland improves to 23-5 as the Oakers seek to prevent Irrigon from matching coach Clark’s team of 2000, which was the last undefeated 2A boys team. Pilot Rock (23-7) has less than 24 hours to regroup and face Western Mennonite in Saturday afternoon’s 3rd-5th place game.