Bandon is at Statefor a fifth straight year. Will this Tiger team be first in school history, boys or girls, to win it all?
Bandon is at Statefor a fifth straight year. Will this Tiger team be first in school history, boys or girls, to win it all?

If you think the Bandon Tigers have been a fixture at the state tournament lately, it’s because they have been. Jordan Sammons’ squad will be making its fifth straight appearance at the state tournament.

They have yet, however, to make it to a state championship final.

In 2020, when Bandon made the semifinals, mighty Kennedy, which destroyed everyone that year, blocked its path to the championship game. In 2022, a furious rally from 17 down had the Tigers within two of Salem Academy in the last 35 seconds of a semifinal before free throws sealed the Crusaders’ win.

Last year, Bandon got hit with an unfortunate injury, when senior guard Katelyn Senn, league POY and First Team All-State as a sophomore, went down with a season-ending injury in January. Without Senn, Bandon lost both of its games in Pendleton, when it might have won state with her in the lineup.

A tough injury hit Bandon again this season, when senior guard Lizzy Stice, a two-year starter, tore her ACL just two weeks into the season.

Sammons wrote this in the season outlook form he completed for OSAAtoday:

“If we can stay healthy and mesh our new pieces together, we could be in the mix to win a state title this year.”

The staying healthy goal ended early, again, but Bandon adjusted behind five other seniors, all with significant experience. Add junior Makenna Vierck, a three-year contributor; and sophomore Caitlyn Michalek, a sophomore who stepped into Stice’s role, and the Tigers appeared to have overcome the loss.

“Caitlyn and Nyah Dimitruk (senior guard) have kind of filled that void together we needed when Lizzy got hurt,” Sammons said. “As a group we have been playing really good team ball lately.”

Good enough for this to be Bandon’s year in Pendleton?

Sammons thinks it could happen even without Stice and with a shorter team with no player taller than 5-9. The Tigers will lean heavily on a healthy Senn, who averages 18.5 points and seven rebounds per game; and Olivia Thompson, who scores 12 a game and has her hand in everything the Tigers do offensively and defensively.

Bandon, which has yet to lose in 2024, has benefited from a deep roster and a commitment to defense.

“The one thing that’s really been really big for us this year and kind of been the foundation of our season is our defense,” the coach said. “Everybody on our team really buys into the defense mentality, and, when you have five people on the floor that pride themselves on the defensive end, it can make you pretty tough. This group has always been offensively talented and everybody on the team is doing a good job playing their role offensively, so getting after it on the defensive end has been a huge benefit for us this season.

Let’s take a look at the quarterfinal state tournament matchups:


2A boys quarterfinals, Thursday, Pendleton High School

No. 5 East Linn Christian Acad. (23-4) vs. No. 4 Oakland (26-1), 1:30 pm: The Valley Coast Conference rivals meet in a state quarterfinal game, having split two previous meetings. The last, a 49-43 ELCA win, snapped a 25-game winning streak for Oakland to start the season. East Linn Christian is headed to Pendleton for the third straight year, a first for the program coached entirely by former players. The Eagles are led by team captains Tanner Israel, Elliot Nofziger and Blake Knurowski. Each averages 12 or more points per game, with the 6-5 Nofziger also pulling down 10 boards per game. ELCA goes nine deep and plays with balance. The big three will do the bulk of the scoring, but the other six all find ways to contribute in meaningful ways…Oakland is making its 17th trip to Pendleton, but first since 2020. The last of Oakland’s three state titles came in 2013, one year after East Linn Christian won its only title. The Oakers made it back to Pendleton, after losing in the first round last year, by defeating Gervais, the first time those teams have met since the five-overtime game at the state tournament in 1983. Oakland goes nine deep but is led by standout senior point guard Joseph Fusco, who averages more than 17 points per game. Post Gabe Williamson also averages double figure scoring per game, with Coltyn Jacobs and Ryan Fullerton, a 6-2 freshman; also contributing heavily on offense. The team plays a physical, defensive style and goes nine deep. Only two seniors are in the rotation, so expect the Oakers to be a threat beyond this year as well.

No. 9 Stanfield (18-6) vs. No. 1 Western Christian (27-1), 3:30 pm: This will be a rematch of a Dec. 2 game that Western Christian won by 22 points. The loss for Stanfield came in the midst of a challenging opening stretch where the Tigers lost four of their first five games. Coach Rylie Smith’s team caught fire after that and come to Pendleton having won 17 of its last 18 games, its lone loss during the streak to 1A No. 1 Crane. The team, whose motto is “We over Me,” is led by four double-figure scorers. Pablo Arellano, Landon Bailey, Michael Odell and Connor Logan all average between 10 and 13 points per game. Logan, a 6-0 senior wing; and 6-9 senior center James Patterson do the bulk of the board work…Western Christian comes to Pendleton for the 19th straight year. The Pioneers have three state titles, last won in 2022 and finished second a year ago. Coached by Gary Hull, the Pioneers are strong favorites this year, with a 7-1 record against the field. The team’s lone loss came versus Regis, by five, early in January, but Western has since twice defeated the Rams by convincing margins. Tri-River Conference MVP Gavin Hall, a 5-10 junior guard, leads the way for the Pioneers, along with 6-3 center Diggs Sladek and 5-9 guard Lucas Zook. The team has only one senior, defensive stopper Kuga Matsumoto. The team isn’t tall, but the players are healthy, play hard-nosed defense and the team philosophy of sharing the ball on offense has netted Western 18 straight wins heading into the state championships.

No. 6 Willamina (22-6) vs. No. 3 Portland Christian (26-0), 6:30 pm: This quarterfinal pits two teams that lost in the first round of the playoffs a year ago. Willamina comes into the state tournament 1-4 versus the field. The Bulldogs started the season with 10 straight wins. They are 12-6 since, though 10-3 over their last 13 games. The team is led by four seniors, Cohen Haller, Adam Atherton, Dylan Graham and Kaleb Cruickshank, who have all played or started on varsity for four years. Thursday’s game will be the 80th they’ve played together during their high school years. The core group made the playoffs in each of their four years, but this is the first time they have advanced past the first round. This is not a tall team – no player is taller than 6-0 – so it needs to be opportunistic on offense and scrappy on defense. The Bulldogs share the ball well, averaging more than 17 assist per game as a team; and shoot it well from beyond the arc. The team goal of top eight has been achieved. Willamina has never won a state title. The Bulldogs are in the mix this year…Portland Christian was 2-23 in 2022 and made the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years in 2023, in coach Erik Lyslo’s first year and with a roster comprised exclusively of freshmen and sophomores. The Royals come to Pendleton undefeated, the only team in the state in any classification yet to suffer a loss. The all-underclass roster features First Team All-League performers Colby Getting, Josiah Harris-Skidmore and Keylon Kittleson. Getting, a transfer from Columbia Christian, is a 6-9 junior post. Harris-Skidmore, a transfer from Gresham, is a defensive stopper and three-point shooter. Kittleson, a freshman, mans the point and has been averaging almost 17 points per game since another top lead guard, Ethan Larner, broke his foot midway through the season. Portland Christian hoped he’d be ready to go for the tournament, but learned yesterday that he would not be available, a big blow to the team’s chances. Still, the team has a good chance due to a high-energy defense with athletic guards who get after teams for 32 minutes and a rim protector in Getting. The Royals are making their first trip to the state eight since winning it all in 2010.

No. 7 Mannahouse Acad., Portland (22-6) vs. No. 2 Regis (25-3), 8:30 pm: Mannahouse and Regis met in Pendleton last year with fourth place at state. Mannahouse won by 13, putting an exclamation point on its first-ever trip to the state tournament. The Lions are back for another go round and are healthy, as 6-9 junior Joshua Louka, the team’s second leading scorer and rebounds and blocks leader, is back after having missed six games with an injury in January. The team’s other big-time players are junior Austin Snyder, the team scoring and steals leader and the 2024 Player of the Year in the Northwest League; and assists leader Jadon Bjornsgard, the 2023 league POY and a First Team All-State selection. Mannahouse comes to Pendleton 1-5 against the field, but four of those losses are to Portland Christian and Western Christian…Regis started the season by winning 19 games in a row. The Rams have gone 6-3 since, but head coach Jason Koehnke says that his team is playing well heading into the state tournament. The team is high-scoring, keyed by its fast, pressing defense. Junior Isaiah Koehnke averages 26 points, four assists and almost three steals per game. Senior Rylan Bischoff scores and rebounds in double figures. Senior Julius Pokorny averages 15 points a contest and is the team assists leader on a Regis squad that averages more than 15 assists per game. The Rams have four state titles all-time, the last coming 16 years ago in 3A. Is this the year they get “one for the thumb?”

2A girls quarterfinals, Thursday, Pendleton Convention Center

No. 11 Enterprise (17-9) vs. No. 1 Western Christian (27-1), 1:30 pm: Enterprise is a program on the rise under second-year head coach Dan Butterfield. Last year, the Outlaws went 15-11 and lost in the first round of the state playoffs. They are two games better this year and come to Pendleton as District champions. The school, which won its only state title 28 years ago, is young, with only two seniors. One senior, Alex Rowley, is a First Team All-League pick who averages 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Other Outlaws to watch include juniors Tessa Duncan and Nevaeh James. Both are guards and Second Team All-League selections. James averages 10 points per game. Duncan leads the team in assists and steals…Western Christian comes to Pendleton on a 23-game winning streak. The Pioneers went two-and-out at the “State 8” last year, but are thriving thanks to an influx of new talent to complement sophomore star Runon Muroya, the Tri-River Conference Player of the Year. Muroya, a three-point sniper, averages 18 points per game and is the team leader in assists. Another returning player, sophomore guard Haley Miersma, is a defensive standout who leads Western in steals. The newcomers, two from Salem Academy and two freshmen, have taken the Pioneers from good to state title favorite. Junior Haley Ferry is a 5-10 post who leads the team in rebounding and, according to coach Bryan Martin, is the “glue that holds the team together.” Junior Lexi Herber and freshman twins Avery Herber and Addison Herber also are big contributors. Avery Herber, who stands 6-2, averages double figures and is a huge presence in the paint. Lexi Herber is an efficient scorer who stuffs the stat sheet with assists and steals. Addison Herber, a 6-1 post, is the team block leader and another capable rebounder. The Pioneers have one state title, earned in 2015. They are well positioned to capture No. 2.

No. 5 Nestucca (23-3) vs. No. 4 Knappa (22-6), 3:15 pm: Nestucca comes to Pendleton on an 18-game winning streak. Three of those wins are over higher-seeded Knappa, its Northwest League rival. Nestucca, which lost in the first round of the playoffs last year, is in the state tournament for the first time since 2009 and searching for a state title after winning its only one back in 1995. The Bobcats are led by four seniors, who are 63-23 over their careers. Four-year starter Hailee Knight is the team’s leader and a four-time All-League performer. She averages 12 points per game and hit the game winner late versus Colton to send Nestucca to Pendleton. Center Kyla Hurliman, a four-sport standout; guard Makayla Webber, a defensive standout and 2023 state pole vault champion; and league Defensive Player of the Year Taylor Knight are others to watch for fourth-year head coach Tevin Gianella’s deep squad…Knappa comes to Pendleton for the 10th time, but first since 2006, ending an 18-year drought. Five of the Loggers’ six losses on the season have come to teams in the state tournament field. Knappa’s top players are all underclassmen, led by sophomore Mylie Lempea, the Northwest League POY. Lempea, who stands 5-2, leads the Loggers in points by a wide margin as well as assists. She is an ultra-competitor and three-sport athlete. Junior Alondra Pina is the team’s second-leading scorer and a defensive pest who leads the team in steals. Junior Taylor Pass is another lockdown defender and a starting pitcher on the softball team. Knappa is not a tall team, with no player taller than 5-10. The Loggers have not won a girls basketball state title since 1977, but state championship bloodlines pass through several on the roster.   

No. 8 Stanfield (18-7) vs. No. 3 Regis (21-7), 6:30 pm: Stanfield returns to Pendleton after finishing second last year with an all-senior starting lineup. The Tigers are at the state tournament for the third straight year after having never been in the State 8 previously. This year’s squad has no seniors and is led by wings Mazie Reeser and Kayla Monkus. Reeser averages 13 points and eight rebounds per game. Monkus, a freshman, averages 12 per game and also tops the Tigers in steals and assists. Junior Kylee Jackson is another key performer for a Stanfield team that will be missing one, and possibly two, key players in its state title quest…Regis has six state titles all time, but none since 2014. The Rams bowed out of the state playoffs in Round 1 last year, but made it back, under first-year head coach Matt Voltin, thanks to a defensive style that produces almost as many rebounds per game (34) as points (44). Sophomore point guard Clara Persons is the team’s leading scorer, at 15 per contest, and is the quickest defender. Others to watch include All-League post Hadley Foster, who averages nine points and a team-high nine rebounds per game; versatile senior Adelle Otter and senior post Kaylee Silbernagel, a leader on the court and strong defensive presence in the paint. This is not a tall team, with no one taller than 5-8, but you would never know it based on its style of play.

No. 10 Oakridge (20-8) vs. No. 2 Bandon (25-2), 8:15 pm: Oakridge made the state playoffs last year, but lost in the first round. The Warriors surprised Weston-McEwen in the first round this season to get to Pendleton for the first time in 23 years. This is a smaller team, both in stature (no one taller than 5-9) and numbers (only eight on the roster), but it is filled with multi-sport athletes who know how to win. The players to watch are sisters Sadie Snyder and Jade Snyder, neither of whom is likely to come off the court. Both First Team and All-Defensive Team performers in the Valley Coast Conference, Sadie is the team’s leading scorer by a wide margin and also tops the squad in steals. Jade is the second-leading scorer and averages more than 10 rebounds per game. Gritty Kim Newberry and diminutive hustler Alejandra Arellano are two others to watch…Bandon starts its expected state tournament run with a league rival that it twice defeated soundly in February. The Tigers come to Pendleton for the fifth straight year in coach Jordan Sammons’ seven-year tenure on an 17-game winning streak. Bandon has made the semifinals twice since 2020, but has never played for a state championship. Bandon owns a win over top-seeded Western Christian and its only two losses have come to playoff teams in larger classifications. The Tigers are led by slashing seniors Katelynn Senn and Olivia Thompson, who average almost 31 points between them. They have always been talented offensively, but a commitment to defense has taken them to another level.