ATHENA - The Pendleton Convention Center is neither unfamiliar nor hostile as far as the Weston-McEwen boys basketball team is concerned.
The old gym with the transplanted Phoenix Suns floor is located just 18 miles up the road. And the building that was originally the Pendleton Armory has long been the site of the TigerScots' district tournaments.
So the players, their coaches and their fans should feel right at home Wednesday afternoon when Weston-McEwen makes its first appearance in the Oregon Class 2A State Tournament since 2003.
Not that it will provide the TigerScots with any noticeable "home-court" advantage.
That's because their first-round foe in the eight-team championship is Enterprise, one of W-M's Blue Mountain Conference rivals.
True, it's a longer drive for the Outlaws - about 100 miles longer, in fact - but hardly insurmountable. And Enterprise has also played its share of games in the Convention Center, too.
In fact, the TigerScots and the Outlaws squared off on that floor as recently as Feb. 19 in the district championship game. Enterprise came out the winner, 73-58, after the teams had split a pair of regular-season games.
In the first meeting of the season between the teams, Jan. 14 in Enterprise, the TigerScots prevailed 60-59. In the league rematch, Jan. 28 in Athena, the Outlaws were victorious 43-38.
By winning the district championship, Enterprise played at home last weekend in the first round of the state playoffs. The Outlaws routed Gold Beach 63-44 to improve to 21-3 on the season.
The TigerScots were forced to go on the road. They traveled to Lebanon, a few miles due east of Corvallis, and came away with a 72-62 victory over East Linn Christian Academy.
Weston-McEwen will take a 19-6 record into Wednesday's 1:30 p.m. game, which will be the first of the four quarterfinal matches. Western Mennonite faces North Douglas at 3:15; Stanfield, yet another BMC entry, plays Central Linn at 6:30; and in the finale, Days Creek meets Knappa at 8:15.
The tournament continues with a pair of loser-out games Thursday morning. The championship semifinals will be played Friday, followed by the trophy round on Saturday.
The girls' Class 2A state tourney begins in the Convention Center Thursday, with the first of four quarterfinal games slated for 1:30 p.m.
According to the most recent Oregon Class 2A coaches poll, Knappa is ranked No. 1 and Central Linn No. 2, which suggests the strength of the field is in the lower bracket. But according to the Oregon School Activities Association rankings, Enterprise is No. 1, followed by Days Creek, Stanfield and North Douglas.
Weston-McEwen is ranked seventh by the coaches and is ninth in the OSAA poll. Enterprise is 10th in the coaches poll.
"We started out the year No. 4 in the coaches poll, but we've had some ups and downs," third-year W-M coach Brian Pickard acknowledged. "But all eight of the teams that are in the tournament are ranked in the top 10."
The TigerScots haven't brought home a state trophy since 1997, Pickard noted. And the school - then known as McEwen High School - won its only state championship in 1975.
"We were runner-up in 1983," said Pickard, a 1992 W-M graduate who sounds like something of an authority on the school's basketball tradition.
Weston-McEwen has relied on a three-pronged offense throughout the season. Senior Tyler Babb is averaging 17 points per game, junior Dallas Reich 16 and senior Miles Thul 14. Reich, Babb and junior Ron Terjeson share the rebounding load equally, and Thul is usually credited with the lion's share of assists.
But defense is going to be of foremost importance on Wednesday, Pickard said.
"We have to do a better job of not getting beat off the dribble when we are defending in the half-court," Pickard said. "We had multiple problems with that (in the district championship game).
"Enterprise has a couple of decent shooters, but they like to drive and create off the dribble. And every time we shoot, they send two guys down the floor, so we are going to have to make sure we get our guards back to slow down that fast break."
But Pickard is more than satisfied with where his team finds itself at this point in the season.
"For whatever reason, we have 12 kids who are all on the same page," he said. "And the big key is that they are all willing to do whatever it takes. That was something that was missing last year.
"Getting to state this year has been our goal from the beginning," the coach added. "A lot of these kids have been working toward this since they were in elementary school and junior high.
"And now they are there."