LEBANON, Ore. - One year ago, Weston-McEwen beat Heppner for the Blue Mountain Conference's district basketball championship and earned the home-court advantage in the first round of the boys Oregon Class 2A state playoffs.
It was to no avail, however, as Salem Academy ended the TigerScots' season with a 59-51 victory in Athena.
Third-year coach Brian Pickard's team took an alternative route this season. The TigerScots lost to Enterprise in the district finals, then went on the road and defeated East Linn Christian Academy 72-62 here Friday night to earn a ticket to next week's Oregon Class 2A State Tournament that begins Wednesday in the Pendleton Convention Center.
"For whatever reason, this team, the last month-and-a-half, has played a lot more relaxed and better on the road," Pickard said. "Maybe it's less pressure, I'm not sure, but we came to play Friday and I couldn't be more proud of their effort and intensity.
"When you play like that, good things are going to happen."
The victory hikes the TigerScots' season record to 19-6 and sets up yet another showdown with BMC rival Enterprise Wednesday afternoon at 1 in the Convention Center when Weston-McEwen makes its first state tournament appearance since 2003. The TigerScots and the Outlaws split a pair of regular-season meetings, each winning on the other's home floor, before Enterprise prevailed in last weekend's district championship game.
"Obviously, you don't like to see a team from your own league this early in the tournament, but that's just the way the draw falls," Pickard said. "And there are only eight of us left."
Stung by Enterprise's 9-0 start in the district finals, Pickard stressed intensity at the outset against East Linn Christian. And the TigerScots delivered as they bolted to a 28-15 first-quarter lead that the Eagles were never able to completely overcome.
"We talked all week about getting off to a fast start, and we did," Pickard said. "The lead got down to five points at one point in the third quarter, but we pushed it right back to 15."
Dallas Reich and Tyler Babb scored 11 points each in the first quarter and combined for 56 of the TigerScots' 72 points on the night. Reich sank four 3-point baskets and led all scorers with 30 points while Babb connected on 10-of-11 free throws on his way to a 26-point game.
"Dallas had a big kid who was a little bit slow guarding him," Pickard said. "And that left a smaller post guarding Tyler, and he got a lot of his free throws because he was taking the ball to the basket.
"We made a big deal out of controlling the tempo, and we did get out and run a little bit. But we also did a good job of getting the ball inside."
Guard Miles Thul, the third member of the usual TigerScots scoring triumvirate, was limited to seven points in the game. But he and fellow guard Elliott Salter dished out six assists each on a night when W-M recorded assists on 18 of its 27 field goals.
"Miles and Elliott were a big part of it," Pickard said. "Miles did a real good job of beating his guy off the dribble, drawing the defense and then finding the open man.
"Ron Terjeson played excellent defense against his man, even though he was giving up four inches," Pickard added.
Chaz Hooley, a 5-foot-11 guard, led the Eagles with 23 points and 6-8 Austin Bates was in double figures with 14 points. Bates also pulled down 10 rebounds as East Linn Christian held a 29-27 rebounding advantage.
Reich collared 14 boards and Terjeson 10 for the TigerScots.
East Linn Christian, the Tri-River League champion, came into the game ranked No. 3 in the Oregon coaches' Class 2A state poll and finished its year at 21-6.
Weston-McEwen 72, East Linn Christian 62
WESTON-MCEWEN (72) - Greenwalt 0 0-0 0, Thul 3 1-2 7, Terjeson 3 0-3 6, Speed 0 0-0 0, Babb 8 10-11 26, Reich 12 2-2 30, Christopher 0 0-0 0, Salter 1 1-2 3. Totals 27 14-20 72.
EAST LINN CHRISTIAN (62) - Hill 2 1-2 5, Hooley 11 1-3 23, Horner 4 0-0 8, Cummins 0 1-2 1, J. Bates 0 4-4 4, A. Bates 6 2-4 14, Warren 3 1-2 7. Totals 26 10-17 62.
Weston-McEwen 28 13 16 15 - 72
East Linn Christian 15 17 16 14 - 62
3-point goals - W-M (Reich 4). Total fouls - W-M 16, ELC 14. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - ELC 29 (A. Bates 10), W-M 27 (Reich 14, Terjeson 10).