Small-school hoops take to Sherwood Center this week

Host school DeSales welcomes 16 teams for the D.A. Davidson Christmas Classic beginning Tuesday.

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Irish girls coach Tim Duncan and his DeSales team plays host to the 16-team D.A. Davidson Christmas Classic this week at Whitman College's Sherwood Center.

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New DeSales boys basketball coach Allyn Griffin addresses the Irish earlier this season.

WALLA WALLA - Are you ready for some basketball?

Prep basketball, that is.

Small-school style.

If you are, the Whitman College campus is the place to be this week as eight schools - 16 teams - converge on Sherwood Center for the first D.A. Davidson Christmas Classic. The schedule calls for 24 games over three days beginning Tuesday, with action slated for both courts at Whitman's refurbished athletic complex.

D.A. Davidson is the official sponsor of the tournament and DeSales is the host school. There are eight additional team sponsors: Brian Gaines Photography, Walla Walla HCG, Coffee Cravings, Tompkins & Associates, Blue Mountain Officials Association, Don Angotti Family, Echo Quarterback Club and D.A. Davidson, which has volunteered for double duty.

In addition to DeSales, the tournament field includes border neighbor Weston-McEwen as well as Echo, the only other Oregon entry. The Irish represent the Southeast 2B District, Weston-McEwen is a member of Oregon's Class 2A Blue Mountain Conference and Echo plays in the Oregon Class 1A Big Sky Conference.

Rounding out the field are Odessa-Harrington and Spokane's Valley Christian, both members of the Bi-County 1B League; Columbia-Hunters of the Northeast 1B District; and Overlake and University Prep, Seattle schools and rivals in the Class 1A Emerald City League.

The field of 16 teams - eight boys, eight girls - features three undefeated squads and two other that have suffered just one loss so far. Seven teams enter Tuesday's first round with winning records.

The best boys matchup of the first round appears to be the very first game at 3 p.m. when Weston-McEwen faces Echo in an all-Oregon showdown on Sherwood Center's auxiliary court. The TigerScots enter the game with a 6-2 record while the Cougars finished up the pre-Christmas portion of their schedule with a 7-1 tab.

Tuesday's 8 p.m. boys battle on the main floor sends undefeated Valley Christian (5-0) against a University Prep team that is 4-3 so far this season.

In the other two boys first-round games, a pair of 1-6 squads, Columbia-Hunters and Overlake, tangle at 4:30 p.m. on the main floor and the host Irish, 2-3 on the year, try to even their record against 1-4 Odessa-Harrington at 6:30 p.m. in the auxiliary gym.

The girls' side of the tourney showcases a pair of undefeated teams, Columbia-Hunters in the upper bracket and DeSales in the lower. If they're to meet, it wouldn't happen until Thursday, either in the championship game or in the consolation bracket.

Columbia-Hunters puts its 7-0 record on the line against 2-5 Overlake in Tuesday's 3 p.m. opener on the main floor. DeSales, 4-0, and Odessa-Harrington, 1-4, face off at 8 p.m., in the auxiliary gym.

Echo's Cougars are 7-1 and also figure to challenge for the girls title. They meet Weston-McEwen, 2-6, Tuesday afternoon at 4:30 on the auxiliary floor, with University Prep, 2-5, and Valley Christian, 1-5, clashing at 6:30 p.m. in the main gym.

All eight of Wednesday's games will be played in Sherwood Center's main gym, with the first consolation-bracket game scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Boys championship semifinals are slated for 3:30 and 7 p.m. and the girls semis are pegged for 5 and 8:30.

The games to decide seventh and eighth places will lead off Thursday's schedule at 11:30 a.m., with the games for fourth and sixth places to follow at 1 p.m. The girls third-place game is scheduled for 3 p.m., followed by the boys third-place game at 4:30, the girls championship at 6:30 and the boys championship at 8.

This is DeSales' second try at hosting a Christmas tournament at Sherwood Center. Last year, the Irish were joined by three other schools - Touchet, Echo and Riverside Christian of Yakima - for a two-day affair.

"We called that one the Shamrock Shootout," DeSales athletic director Greg Fazzari said. "This year, by getting some sponsorships that allow us to pay for the officials and Whitman gym rental, we were able to expand.

"If we can get it to pay for itself, we'd like to make it an annual event," Fazzari added. "We see it as a great local tournament on a gorgeous college floor just two blocks from our school. It's good competition, no travel for us and a great thing to sustain."

Admission is $5 per day for adults and $3 for students. Family tournament passes are available for $15.

Tournament festivities tip off at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday with a luncheon in the DeSales cafeteria for all participating players, coaches and their team hosts.

Four of the participating teams have booked blocks of rooms at local motels and hotels. Weston-McEwen and Echo are close enough in proximity to drive back and forth.

Odessa-Harrington has made arrangements to spend nights in the Touchet High School all-purpose room. Odessa-Harrington athletic director Darren Reppe is a Touchet graduate.

D.A. Davidson Classic

At Whitman College

Boys

Tuesday's Games

Weston-McEwen vs. Echo, 3 p.m.

Columbia-Hunters vs. Overlake, 4:30 p.m.

DeSales vs. Odessa-Harrington, 6:30 p.m.

University Prep vs. Valley Christian, 8 p.m.

Wednesday's Games

Weston-McEwen-Echo loser vs. Columbia-Hunters-Overlake loser, 8:30 a.m.

DeSales-Odessa-Harrington loser vs. University Prep-Valley Christian loser, noon

Weston-McEwen-Echo winner vs. Columbia-Hunters-Overlake winner, 3:30 p.m.

DeSales-Odessa-Harrington winner vs. University Prep-Valley Christian winner, 7 p.m.

Thursday's Games

7th-8th Game, 11:30 a.m.

4th-6th Game, 1 p.m.

3rd-5th Game, 4:30 p.m.

Championship Game, 8 p.m.

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Girls

Tuesday's Games

Columbia-Hunters vs. Overlake, 3 p.m.

Weston-McEwen vs. Echo, 4:30 p.m.

University Prep vs. Valley Christian, 6:30 p.m.

DeSales vs. Odessa-Harrington, 8 p.m.

Wednesday's Games

Columbia-Hunters-Overlake loser vs. Weston-McEwen-Echo loser, 10 a.m.

University Prep-Valley Christian loser vs. DeSales-Odessa-Harrington loser, 1:30 p.m.

Columbia-Hunters-Overlake winner vs. Weston-McEwen-Echo winner, 5 p.m.

University Prep-Valley Christian winner vs. DeSales-Odessa-Harrington winner, 8:30 p.m.

Thursday's Games

7th-8th Game, 11:30 a.m.

4th-6th Game, 1 p.m.

3rd-5th Game, 3 p.m.

Championship Game, 6:30 p.m.

D.A. Davidson Classic team capsules

Boys Capsules

DeSales

Coach - Allyn Griffin, first year, previously coached six years at Jubilee Christian Academy.

Record - 2-3 overall, 0-2 in the Southeast 2B District.

Mascot - Irish.

Leading Scorer - Victor Mata 12 points per game.

Past Performance - Missed the playoffs last season but have been regulars at district and have made a couple of appearances in the Class B state tourney as well as two earlier trips to the Class A state tournament.

Team Makeup - Four seniors and a couple of juniors return from a team that lost four key players to graduation.

Coach's Quotes - "We've got some speed, but we are very inexperienced as far as knowledge of the game is concerned ... we play good defense on the ball and the guys work hard ... I think it's reasonable to think we can get to the playoffs this year and maybe win a game or two."

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Weston-McEwen

Coach - Brian Pickard, third year.

Record - 6-2 overall, 2-0 in the Blue Mountain Conference.

Mascot - TigerScots.

Leading Scorer - Miles Thul 17 points per game and Tyler Babb and Dallas Reich both at 15.

Past Performance - Reached the round of 16 state playoffs last year after missing the playoffs the previous two years, but the school has a rich tradition that includes a Class 2A state championship in 1975 and a second-place finish in 1983.

Team Makeup - Although the team lost three seniors to graduation, this year's veteran roster is top heavy with seven seniors, although there are two juniors in the starting lineup.

Coach's Quotes - "I'm pretty pleased with our defense so far because we're only giving up 47 points a game ... we struggled with our shooting early but have picked it up in recently with a 72-point game and a 70-point game ...our biggest issue this year and all of last year was learning to play for four quarters ... as long as we keep improving every night and playing four quarters, we have a good shot at going a long ways."

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Echo

Coach - Ben Campbell, first year.

Record - 7-1 overall.

Mascot - Cougars.

Leading Scorer - Esau Ibarra, 12 points per game.

Past Performance - Very little success, no recent state appearances.

Team Makeup - Three seniors lost to graduation, four seniors on current roster, balanced offense with all five starters close to double-figure scoring.

Coach's Quotes - "It's been quite awhile since the school has enjoyed any success, although there are some years when we should have done a little better ... we should be very competitive this year with as good a shot as any to win the Big Sky Conference, which is pretty wide open."

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Columbia-Hunters

Coach - Tom Berg, second year, five previous years as girls head coach.

Record - 1-6 overall, 1-2 in the in the Northeast B1 District North Division.

Mascot - Lions.

Leading Scorer - Dominick Marquez, 12 points per game.

Past Performance - No more than three wins in each of the last five years. A struggling program since 1988, when the team finished fourth at state, and 1989, when the Lions qualified for state.

Team Makeup - Three senior starters.

Coach's Quotes - "We've been playing better, getting over the hump and starting to believe in ourselves ... our first game we were ahead at halftime and then fell apart; in another game we trailed by 32 at halftime and then played a solid second half."

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Overlake

Coach - Justin Prohn, first year, assistant coach under longtime coach John Wiley for six previous years.

Record - 1-6 overall, 0-2 in the Emerald City League.

Mascot - Owls.

Leading Scorer - Dean Poplawski 18 points per game and Cameron Lui 14.5 points and six assists per game.

Past Performance - Only Class 1A state appearance was in 2006 when the Owls finished fourth.

Team Makeup - Two seniors, six juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.

Coach's Quotes - "The 2006 team (20-6) was a special team, with four college-level athletes, including Aaron Osgood, who has played in three NCAA tournaments for Cornell ... we've always gone out of state, San Francisco or Phoenix, to play in tournaments, but this year we decided to stay in state and this sounded like a fun tournament ... We have a really good group of kids and we are working hard on our skill development and understanding of the game."

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Odessa-Harrington

Coach - Travis Schuh, first year because this is the first year of the sports co-op.

Record - 1-4 overall.

Mascot - Titans.

Leading Scorer - Justin Hunt 12.8 points per game, Cade Weber 10.3 points and Jared King 10 rebounds.

Past Performance - None as a combine, Odessa made a state appearance in 2007 which was the first time since 1998.

Team Makeup - Three seniors, one junior and six sophomores on the varsity roster.

Coach's Quotes - "We're a very young team, and not very big with just one player over 6-feet tall ... we went to a summer camp, and we are improving every game, but we need to improve our shooting ... our defense had been great ... we've been pretty weak the last few years."

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Valley Christian

Coach - Chad Kimberley, third year.

Record - 5-0 overall.

Mascot - Panthers.

Leading Scorer - Craver Small, Tyler Tipke and Nick Cox, all averaging between 11 and 14 points per game.

Past Performance - Several state appearances in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with one second-place finish, followed by several lean seasons.

Team Makeup - A combination, with Tipke (senior), Small (junior) and Cox (freshman) leading the way.

Coach's Quotes - "It's been rough, with two wins in each of the last two years, but this year we are dropping down from the Bi-County 2B to the Bi-County 1B ... by dropping down we needed to add six additional non-league games to our schedule, and this tournament was a good way to pick up three games and simulate the state playoffs by playing three games in three days."

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University Prep

Coach - Bill Sauvage, sixth year.

Record - 4-3 overall, 2-1 in the Emerald City League.

Mascot - Pumas.

Leading Scorer - Will Jaffe 13 points a game, Andrew Garrison 12 and Kyle McEachran 11.

Past Performance - Team placed seventh at the Class 1A state tournament in Sauvage's second year and lost in winner-to-state district loser-out games the past two years, and placed seventh at state once prior to Sauvage's arrival.

Team Makeup - Team is top heavy with seven seniors, including four who start, three of whom have played consistently together for three years.

Coach's Quotes - "We have been relatively strong in our league, although Bellevue Christian is the king ... for our level we are a decent talent base with a good point guard who was a backup last year and a pretty good big kid in 6-foot-7 Garrison ... we could finish anywhere from first in the league to fifth ... we are in the mix of a mush pot, but my hope is that we can get to the Tri-District and possibly sneak into state ... we are not great, but we are OK ... when we play well, we can beat the teams that are possibly going to state."

Girls Capsules

DeSales

Coach - Tim Duncan, 16th season.

Record - 4-0 overall, 2-0 in the Southeast 2B District.

Mascot - Irish.

Leading Scorer - Erin Giusti 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.

Past Performance - A consistent playoff team that last season made its fifth trip to the Class B state tournament in Duncan's long tenure. The Irish's best finish at state was fifth in 2005.

Team Makeup - Team lost five seniors from last year's squad, including all-state performer Caitlin Duncan, and has two seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and a pair of freshman on this year's squad.

Coach's Quotes - "Our goals don't change, we think we should make the state tournament and anything less is not a realistic goal ... and we believe it's realistic for this group ... I'm surprised this early in the year how good a defensive team we've been, because I have to admit that was a weak spot for us the last couple of years ... we're a little bit different in that one of our offensive strengths is perimeter shooting, and one of our weaknesses is that we are not consistent with our perimeter shooting."

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Weston-McEwen

Coach - Amber Doremus, second year.

Record - 2-6 overall, 1-1 in the Blue Mountain Conference.

Mascot - TigerScots.

Leading Scorer - Tiffany Cain 10 points per game.

Past Performance - Team missed the postseason in each of the last three seasons but was a postseason player in practically every other season dating back to the early 1980, with a state-championship season in 2005.

Team Makeup - Only one senior graduated from last year's 4-20 season, and this year's roster includes just a single senior, four juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen.

Coach's Quotes - "I think since Game 1, we are starting to figure out where we are supposed to be on offense and defense, the fundamental things we like to do ... I'm really proud of how much they have grown with regard to their skills and playing together ... we will just keep playing through to the final bucket."

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Echo

Coach - Derrick Lete, first year, spent one previous year as Hermiston boys varsity coach.

Record - 7-1 overall.

Mascot - Cougars.

Leading Scorer - Lauren Ellingston, 13 points per game and also leads team in rebounds and assists.

Past Performance - The Cougars have struggled to make the playoffs.

Team Makeup - Ellingston and fellow senior Taylor Tarvin are the co-captains and the only other senior on the roster is a reserve. A fourth senior is out for at least six weeks with an injury.

Coach's Quotes - "Our two senior co-captains are consistent players ... I think we have high expectations ... we're striving to build up their confidence, because in girls basketball if you don't have confidence it will be a struggle ... the district playoffs is our goal."

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Columbia-Hunters

Coach - Mindy Flett, first year, three previous years as girls assistant coach and two years as the boys assistant coach, a 1997 Columbia-Hunters graduate and former player.

Record - 7-0 overall, 3-0 in the Northeast B1 District Northern Division.

Mascot - Lions.

Leading Scorer - JulieAnn Larrew 17.4 points per game and Krista Colvin 15.4.

Past Performance - 1986 state champions, qualified for state seven times and placed every year, including last year's third-place team.

Team Makeup - One senior, four juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.

Coach's Quotes - "I actually never went to state as a player, district as a junior was the best I got ... two years ago we placed seventh at state and the average age of our team was 15, with three eighth graders, three sophomores and three juniors ... my daughter Katie is a sophomore on this year's team and was a freshman on last year's team that went to state ... we return four starters from that team."

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Overlake

Coach - Sara Wilcox, third year, assistant coach for two previous years.

Record - 2-5, 1-2 in the Emerald City League.

Mascot - Owls.

Leading Scorer - Mariel Frank 10.7 points per game.

Past Performance - Four state appearances since 2000.

Team Makeup - Lost six seniors to graduation, including four starters, and their are four freshmen on this year's roster, including Frank and second-leading scorer Katie Hill (6.3 ppg.).

Coach's Quotes - "We are really young with a lot of great young talent, but the thing we are lacking is the experience of what it feels and looks like to play high school basketball ... We have some good speed and our posts are average sized ... it's a very different team from the one that went to the playoffs the last two years ... it's a very different situation, not bad, just different."

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Odessa-Harrington

Coach - Jason Spakousky, first year, coached for 10 years in Alaska.

Record - 1-4 overall.

Mascot - Titans.

Leading Scorer - Justyne Talkington 15 points per game and Lacey Hirst 12.5.

Past Performance - None as a combine, but the Odessa program has been down for years.

Team Makeup - Six seniors, three juniors and two sophomores, but only two of the top seven players from last year's team return,

Coach's Quotes - "We are looking good, but we are not where we want to be, although I know that coaches are never satisfied ... for what we have to work with and considering the lack of success at Odessa, I am told that we will get more wins this year than in the last three or four years combined."

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Valley Christian

Coach - Nate Riggan, fifth year.

Record - 1-5 overall.

Mascot - Panthers.

Leading Scorer - Junior Lacey Riggan and sophomore Lindy Riggan, the coach's daughters, average 10 points each per game.

Past Performance - Last year's 9-12 record was the Panthers' best in Riggan's four years as coach, but the team did make it to state twice in the early 2000s.

Team Makeup - Two seniors who have played together for three years plus one junior, two sophomores and the rest freshmen comprise the team, but leading scorer in 6-foot Katie Worley graduated.

Coach's Quotes - "Enrollmentwise we are down, and we are in the middle of the pack in the Bi-County 1B District ... we've dropped from 2B to 1B and I am hoping we can finish as high as third place."

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University Prep

Coach - Kyle Lawhead, second year, three previous years as junior varsity coach.

Record - 2-5, 1-2 in Emerald City League.

Mascot - Pumas.

Leading Scorer - Ariana Wetzel 10 points per game and Anya Beard five points and seven rebounds per game.

Past Performance - Qualified for playoffs in three of the last four years, including last year in Lawhead's first season, but have never advanced to the state tournament.

Team Makeup - Graduated eight seniors and return four players from last year's squad, with just one senior and six juniors. Varsity roster also includes three freshmen.

Coach's Quotes - "The program struggled until (Lawhead's predecessor) Marla Quesnell took over four years ago and got the team to the playoffs twice ... we're a young team but we are already getting a lot better as the kids get our rotations down and figure out their roles .... we're more a defensive team, we won't score a ton of points, and we like to pressure in the half court and sometimes full court, that's the style we like to play and allow our defense to turn into offense ... we think it's possible to make a playoff run because the top two teams in our league are tough and the 3-4-5 spots are open and competitive."

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