10/16/15 #3 Sheldon @ Thurston

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Also includes Sheldon, South Eugene, and Marist, at a minimal extra fee.


The Lancers (6-3) played in the two-day Silverton Tournament this past week, beating West Albany 69-59 on the first day before falling to host Silverton 49-47. Silverton is a traditionally strong home team, but you have to figure that Churchill was hoping for a sweep.

Churchill gets a long rest, not playing again until hosting Thurston in the MWL opener on Friday, 1/9. The winner here will be a leg-up in the league race – big early season game.


The Spartans (5-4) played five times this past week, playing three games as part of the South Coast Les Schwab Holiday Tournament. They beat 5A South Albany 63-49 in the opener, then lost to 5A Glencoe 60-43. They rebounded with a blowout win over Marshfield to finish in third place. They returned home two days later and lost to 5A Liberty 47-46, but beat Henley 56-41 a day later.

Marist plays twice this week, traveling to Sisters as Sky-Em league play begins in full-force. They host La Pine three days later.


The Pirates (5-3) went through the rigors of the three-day South Coast Les Schwab Holiday Tournament, beating Crook County in the opening round 61-43 before experiencing a pair of setbacks. They lost 30-27 to 6A Grants Pass in the second round, and then were uncompetitive against 4A Marist in a 67-42 defeat in the third place game.

Marshfield won’t play again until 1/9, when they host Willamette in the MWL opener for both schools. It’s important that the Pirates win their home games if they want to stay in the race for the third playoff seed – about as important as it is for Willamette to win their road games against Marshfield and Springfield this year. Expect early season fireworks.

North Eugene

The Highlanders (2-7) just can’t find consistency. They went to the Barlow Trail Tournament after Christmas looking to rebound from a 1-4 start, but lost 53-40 to a traveling team from Washington, beat 6A Gresham 55-45, then dropped a 52-49 decision to 6A Newberg. They then came home to host Sheldon, but were turned back 59-47.

So, the two-time defending MWL champions find themselves entering MWL play five games under .500. Most thought that North’s rebuilding process would take time – but 2-7? I didn’t expect that. They host Springfield on 1/8. A fresh start (everybody is 0-0 in the MWL) might be just what the doctor ordered.


The Irish (7-2) had themselves an unexpectedly solid week, beginning with four games up at the LSI. They lost their first two outings, to Grant (64-46) and Central Catholic (62-56), but rebounded with two wins over Tigard (62-54) and Canby (46-43) to come back home with a .500 record. At the LSI, .500 is very good. They won a road make-up game at North Eugene 59-47 to close the week. 3-2, versus that schedule? The Irish have to feel good about that.

Sheldon is playing well heading into SWC play, and look like the best challenger to the Medford schools for league supremacy. They’ll host Grants Pass on 1/6, then travel cross-town to rival South Eugene on 1/10.

South Eugene

The Axemen (4-5) went to Nevada for a post-Christmas tournament, but I don’t know much about the teams they faced. They lost badly to Rice (NY), 74-44. They rebounded to beat Henderson (NV) 77-41 a night later, and close the tournament with a 58-52 win over Lake Mead Christian (NV). They lost to former league rival Thurston upon their return to Oregon.

Things don’t get much easier this week for SE. They trip to 6A state title contender South Medford in their SWC opener, then return home to host archrival Sheldon later in the week.


The Millers (6-2) have had a busy week, playing a few make-up dates in addition to some already-scheduled games. They beat Parkrose 29-26 on 1/29 in a game where Parkrose tried to slow the game down by holding onto the ball for minutes at a time. They beat Cleveland on the road a day later, 57-52, then returned home for a win over St. Helens (70-57) on 1/2. The end of the onslaught came a day later, still at home, where they lost to Liberty 64-57 in overtime. Phew.

Springfield makes up for last week’s busy schedule by only playing once this week, on the road against North Eugene.


The Colts (6-2) participated in a three-day tournament up in Wilsonville to begin the week. They beat Crescent Valley 54-48 in the opening round, and beat Crater 50-43 in the semifinals. They lost 45-43 in the championship round to host Wilsonville, but a two-point loss to an undefeated Wilsonville team (9-0) on their floor isn’t the end of the world for Thurston. The Colts ended the week two days later by hosting 6A South Eugene in a make-up game, which they won 49-43 in overtime. The Axemen defense was stifling, but the Colts did well by adapting to the physicality of the game and by going 23/29 at the free throw line.

Thurston plays twice this week, starting Monday (1/5) at home against Crescent Valley (yes, again). A win here would give the Colts a 7-2 non-league record, heading into MWL play – an interesting stat, I think, considering Thurston went 8-2 in non-league games last year. Having a similar record going into January, despite losing so much talent off of last year’s team, is pretty impressive. Thurston opens up MWL play Friday, at Churchill.


The Wolverines (6-2) went East for the Redmond Tournament, beating Woodburn in overtime 66-57, then took host Redmond to the edge a night later before losing 59-53. They won a home game over Dallas 56-39 three days later.

Willamette plays twice this week, tripping to Lebanon on 1/5, then beginning league play on the road against Marshfield on 1/9.

Neat Stat

MWL schools are 16-3 at home this season, with one more non-league home game to go (Crescent Valley @ Thurston). Two of the losses came against North Eugene, against a pair of playoff-bound 6A schools (South Medford and Sheldon). Road wins are going to be very tough to come by this season.

MWL Power Rankings

1. Churchill (6-3): Still the top dog, but I don’t expect them to run undefeated through the MWL like North has the past few seasons.

2. Thurston (6-2): Colts looked good up in Wilsonville, and beat a playoff-bound 6A school in South Eugene on short rest.

3. Willamette (6-2): They can do a little bit of everything, and have established confidence.

4. Springfield (6-2): Who knew? Millers are playing good basketball, and should carve up the league playing at home.

5. Marshfield (6-3): Somewhat fell on their face at the end of the South Coast LSI, but they’re hoping that blowout loss to Marist was an aberration – both Springfield schools took care of Marist with little trouble.

6. North Eugene (2-7): Truth be told, I still expect NE to make the playoffs. But you just can’t put them anywhere else at this point in time.

What Did We Learn?

The top five MWL schools are a combined 30-12, and all have established homecourt dominance. The school outside that bunch is North Eugene, a team long on talent and still a darkhorse to do some major damage in the league. Churchill and Thurston may look like the best of the bunch right now, but there will be no easy wins in the MWL this season.

We also learned that Sheldon is for real, and should challenge North and South Medford all season long in the SWC. South Eugene still looks better than Roseburg and Grants Pass, which is to say that both 6A Eugene schools will be playoff-bound. Marist has scheduled up plenty, which should do them well in the Sky-Em.

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