Stanfield's Destiny O'Neill (33) and Maggie Sharp (21) battle inside against Weston-McEwen. (Photo by Kathey Aney)
Stanfield's Destiny O'Neill (33) and Maggie Sharp (21) battle inside against Weston-McEwen. (Photo by Kathey Aney)

For years, Stanfield was little more than a speed bump for the more powerful 2A girls basketball teams in eastern Oregon.

After winning a league title in 1987, the Tigers had two winning seasons in the next three decades. The last 10 years have included seasons of 1-23 and 2-21.

But Stanfield is undergoing a dramatic reversal of fortune in recent years.

The Tigers ended a 33-year playoff absence in 2020 and reached the quarterfinals for the first time in 35 years last season, taking sixth place.

They are 23-1 this season, the best record since the program started in 1974-75. They have clinched the Blue Mountain Conference championship, their first league title since 1987.

“There were some rough years,” said coach Dan Sharp, who is 111-95 in nine seasons with the team. “The schools in our league have been so good and competitive, it's a tough thing to kind of crack.

“The kids just stuck with what we were trying to do, opening up the game to be more freelance, more fun. Sometimes that can be kind of scary, but the kids have accepted it. It's kind of rolled as the success has happened.”

Sharp had plenty of success coaching Stanfield's boys, going 147-65 in eight seasons (2007-2015), including a third-place finish at state in 2014. He coached both the boys and girls teams for one season (2014-15) before focusing solely on the girls team as the oldest of his three daughters, Savannah, prepared to enter the program in 2016-17,

The Tigers have been on a steady climb, going 2-21, 12-13, 19-8, 8-1 and 23-7 in the previous five seasons. They have made another jump this season, and at No. 4 in the OSAAtoday 2A coaches poll, they are a legitimate state title contender.

Stanfield graduated two starters from last season but got a huge lift with the addition of senior twins Adrienne (5-6) and Alexis Mallory (5-6), transfers from Faith Bible, where they were starting guards for a 2A quarterfinalist last year.

The Mallorys are part of an all-senior starting lineup along with guard Maggie Sharp (5-5) and forwards Zuri Reeser (5-9) and Destiny O'Neill (6-0). Maggie Sharp and Reeser lead the team in scoring at 14 and 13 points per game, respectively. The Mallorys each average about five assists.

“We lost some pretty good seniors, but I knew we'd be able to score,” Dan Sharp said. “The Mallorys have added some smart play to our team and really settled things down. It really just made for a strong senior group of five.”

The defense, the foundation of the team's success last season (28.4 points per game), has remained solid (26.4 points). And the offense has improved from 43.3 to 56.5 points per game.

“Alexis Mallory has kind of taken over our point guard spot where Maggie was, and it's allowed us to open up a little bit more of our offense, which has been a key for us,” Dan Sharp said.

The team has three sets of sisters in the Mallorys, Zuri Reeser and sophomore Mazie Reeser, and Maggie Sharp and freshman Kiera Sharp, the youngest of the coach's daughters. Maggie Sharp, a fourth-year starter, was a second-team all-state pick last season.

“She's kind of been our rock,” Dan Sharp said.

Teams have been playing zone defense against Stanfield, and after being hesitant to shoot from deep for much of the season, the Tigers have made opponents pay of late after getting the green light from Dan Sharp.

Maggie Sharp and Zuri Reeser each have had games of six three-pointers. The team connected on 12 of 22 three-point attempts in a 65-31 win over Enterprise on Feb. 4.

“We've just been willing to shoot it, and that's opened up a lot of our offense,” Dan Sharp said. “We'll go through some stretches where we miss about 10 of them, then all of the sudden it just starts raining.”

Stanfield's only loss this season is a 50-42 defeat to 3A No. 6 Nyssa, a reigning state champion that features Utah State-bound post Gracie Johnson. The Tigers didn't have an answer for the 6-5 Johnson, who scored 40 points.

“That was my bad,” Dan Sharp said. “I told the girls, 'I want to see where we're at, we're going to play them straight up man-to-man, and see who's better.' And Gracie Johnson was better than us.”

Stanfield has not played any teams currently ranked in the top 10 of the OSAAtoday 2A coaches poll. The Tigers, riding a 19-game winning streak, got their most impressive win of the season Wednesday when they defeated 1A No. 4 Nixyaawii 43-41 at home.

Stanfield, 10-0 in the Blue Mountain, has a first-round bye in the district playoffs. The Tigers will play the winner of Enterprise and Weston-McEwen to determine the conference's top seeds to the 2A playoffs.