ATHENA - Progress!
In a word, that is the definition of Brian Pickard's body of work during his first three seasons as boys basketball coach at Weston-McEwen.
In year one in 2009, the TigerScots managed a 10-14 season record and missed the postseason.
In 2010, W-M shared the Blue Mountain Conference championship with Heppner and placed first at district. But despite the home-court advantage in the first round of the Oregon Class 2A state playoffs, the TigerScots lost to Salem Academy and saw their season come to an end with a 17-10 record.
Last year, W-M won the league title outright but lost to rival Enterprise in the district championship game. However, the TigerScots rebounded with a road win over East Linn Christian in the first round of the state playoffs and earned their first trip to the final-eight state tournament since 2003.
But back-to-back losses to Enterprise and North Douglas left the TigerScots with a bitter taste in their mouths and a 19-8 final record.
If Pickard and the TigerScots hope to continue their upward trend, they'll need to do one better this week in the Pendleton Convention Center where the Class 2A state tourney will play out Thursday through Saturday.
Weston-McEwen enters Thursday's 3:15 p.m. quarterfinal test against Days Creek with a 20-5 season record. The TigerScots' 2012 resume includes league and district championships plus last Saturday's 55-48 victory here over Oakland in the first round of the state playoffs.
Anything less than a trophy game on Saturday will be deemed a setback to Pickard's program.
"Absolutely," Pickard said of the importance of taking that next step. "We need to get in there and win some games and bring home a state trophy.
"Especially for our seniors and the way we got beat last year. That was all the kids could talk about. They are not happy just being there."
The TigerScots lost six seniors to graduation last spring, including Tyler Babb and Miles Thul, two of the team's top scorers. But all four of this year's seniors saw extensive playing time as juniors, and Pickard believes that state tournament experience could be the difference between the two teams.
"Our senior leadership has been huge this year," Pickard said. "They have been in a number of state games in basketball, football and baseball, so that experience level is huge for us right now."
Dallas Reich, the team's leading scorer with a 23-point average, has the most experience. The 6-foot-3 shooting guard is in his fourth season as a starter and recently became the third player in school history to score 1,500 points in his career.
The other seniors are 6-5 Ron Terjeson, 6-3 Riley Sederberg and 5-8 Elliot Salter. Zane Chapman, a 6-foot junior, rounds out the starting lineup and juniors Jacob Ramirez (5-10) and Nick Pease (6-1) are supplying valuable minutes off the bench.
If experience is one of Weston-McEwen's most valuable assets, size might be another. Terjeson, who averages 13 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots a game, and Sederberg, who averages 10 points and eight rebounds, give this year's TigerScots a slightly different look.
"We've kind of changed what we do because of the inside presence of Ron and Riley, and also Nick Pease," Pickard said. "We have three big, strong post players. And Dallas (Reich) can go in there, too. We will post him up as well.
"We look to rebound and run. But if we don't have anything on the break, we have two of the biggest post players in Class 2A, so we look to take advantage of them inside more than in he past."
Days Creek, the TigerScots' quarterfinal foe, enters Thursday afternoon's game with a 23-4 record. The Wolves are ranked fourth in the most recent Oregon School Activities Association Class 2A state poll, one notch ahead of the TigerScots.
Days Creek won the Mountain View Conference with a 15-1 record and defeated Oakland 44-33 in the district championship game. Days Creek and Oakland split their regular-season series.
"They are a physical team," Pickard said of the Wolves. "They get after you defensively and put pressure on the ball full court. But we have a size advantage and we have to take advantage of it.
"We got in trouble in the second and fourth quarters against Oakland, and it was mostly because we quit trying to go inside.
"When we go inside, good things happen. It opens it up for Dallas and our other shooters, and we have some shooters, too."