ATHENA - Teamwork, togetherness and trust is what it will take to win the Class 2A Oregon state basketball championships this week at the Pendleton Convention Center.
Weston-McEwen coach Brian Pickard and several of his players all agree on that.
"We have really come together as a team in this 12-game winning streak before state and learned to trust each other," TigerScots junior post Nick Pease said.
Junior guard Jacob Ramirez said that teamwork matched with consistency is best. "We need to play as a team and play good throughout the entire game to do well in the state playoffs," he said.
Pickard agrees with Ramirez about the need for consistency and overall team play.
"We have to play well for four quarters, not just part of the game," he said. "We're at the point now where there are eight teams left, everybody is good and you're got to play the entire game or else you'll be in trouble."
"We need to be ready mentally and physically," senior point guard Elliot Salter said. "We need to give it 100 percent every game, every practice, and play hard."
The close knit bunch of guys at W-M are enjoying their run this season.
"I really like the team aspect of basketball," Pease said. "And getting out here to play with friends. It makes it one of my favorite sports."
Ramirez said that the friendships have led to trust and fun for everyone.
"When we started playing as a team, becoming better friends and winning - it has really started to be fun," he said.
Salter said that his teammates are his friends.
"I enjoy being with all my friends every day and coming out here every day to play competitive basketball," he said.
Pickard said that even more than team work and trust, the team needs to play good defense and execute on offense while knowing that every game will be a challenge.
"We'll have to play our best to keep winning; execute on offense and bring the defensive intensity for 32 minutes," Pickard said. "We can play, compete and win against anybody there at state. We have film on everybody, we'll know what they're going to do and now it is just a matter of execution."
Salter said that W-M's goal from the start of the season has been a state championship.
Last year, the team was eliminated after reaching the final eight in Pendleton.
But the TigerScots hope to build upon that experience this year.
The only state championship for boys basketball for Weston-McEwen was in 1975, and in the 1983 the TigerScots took second place overall.
Win three in a row in the tournament and the championship is yours. Win at least one of two games before Saturday and you will make it to a placing game.
The TigerScots take on Days Creek, a No. 2 seed, Thursday at 3:15 p.m. to open tournament play. The tournament bracket can be viewed at website OSAA.org.
Pickard is trying to take it one game at a time.
"Days Creek plays man defense primarily, and uses fullcourt pressure," he said. "They get after it, especially on defense. They play a lot like our last opponents did, Oakland (which W-M defeated 55-48 in the first round of the state tournament on Saturday), but I think they are a little better team. We have to show up ready to play. Our size inside with anybody we play can cause problems, and we need to take advantage of that and stick to it. When we turn into primarily a jump-shooting team, it gets us into trouble."
If W-M wins Thursday, the TigerScots would play the winner of Stanfield-Eastern Linn Christian.
A second win would lead to a trip to the finals.
"Eastern Linn is the same team we beat last year on the road to advance to the final eight of the playoffs, and we've had our battles against Stanfield already this season," Pickard said. "Other teams to watch in the final eight state bracket are Vernonia, Regis and Western Mennonite. We'll have film study on all of them and hope to be ready for whatever comes our way."