A Magical Season

OC boys notch most wins in school history
by: John Lariviere, Oregon City senior Bryce Kinney works for a basket against Southridge's Kevin Sullivan during a state playoff game last week.

OREGON CITY - Oregon City High School's boys basketball team continued its historic run last week, earning a spot in the eight-team Class 6A State Championship Tournament with playoff wins over Southridge (77-59) and Canby (67-51).

And the Pioneers continued to rewrite Oregon City High School boys basketball history. With last week's wins, the top-ranked Pioneers improved their season record to 26-1.

It's the first time since Oregon City first fielded a team in 1922 that an Oregon City High School boys team has had a 26-win season. The previous winningest season was way back in 1939, when the Pioneers finished 25-9.

'It's another great feat to reach this milestone and add this to our accomplishments,' said Oregon City team co-captain Brad Tinsley. 'It's been a magical year. Hopefully we can keep it going for another week.'

Earlier this year, the Pioneers became the first Oregon City High School boys team to go unbeaten in league in the history of the Three Rivers League.

They are unbeaten against teams from Oregon and they enter the state tournament riding a 16-game win string.

Oregon City's been ranked the top team in Oregon since early January. This is only the second time since at least 1981 that an Oregon City High School boys basketball team has been ranked No. 1, according to longtime Oregon City educator Clif Wegner, who coached a top-ranked Oregon City team in 1988.

But the Pioneers don't get an easy draw in this year's state tournament opener. They meet defending state champion and second-ranked South Medford (22-4) Thursday at 8:15 p.m. in the quarterfinals.

The Pioneers defeated the Panthers 64-58 on Dec. 28, when the two teams met at the Les Schwab Invitational.

'[The fact that we've beaten them this season] gives us a little confidence,' said Tinsley. 'But it doesn't mean a lot. Like we experienced in [last Saturday's game] with Canby, when you get to this point in the season, everyone's equal and anyone can beat anyone.'

The Pioneers trailed Canby in the early going and they were nursing only a 34-33 lead at halftime. Aggressive man-to-man defensive play proved the difference in the second half, as the Pioneers put the Cougars away in the third period when they out-scored them 16-2.

'Sammy Schafer's defense on [Canby 6-5 post] Cody Hickey was pivotal,' said Oregon City coach Mike Doherty. 'Hickey scored 11 points in the first quarter and 5 in the second quarter, but he went scoreless in the second half, when Sammy was guarding him.

'But all of the guys did a good job on defense. You don't hold a team like Canby to just two points in a quarter without everyone playing really good defense.'

Tinsley commented on the upcoming game with South Medford:

'Defensively, we've got to lock up their main guys. Defense is going to win the game.'

South Medford's 'main guys' are 6-3 senior point guard Michael Harthun and 6-6 junior post E.J. Singler. Harthun lit up the scoreboard for 26 points in the Pioneers' earlier game with the Panthers.

Tinsley and Schafer carried much of the offensive load in Saturday night's playoff win over Canby.

Tinsley scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting, with two 3-pointers.

Schafer scored 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and the Pioneer 6-9 post hauled down 13 rebounds.

Kamal Smith (12 points) also reached double figures in scoring.

Canby 6-1 point guard Michael Stogsdill paced the Cougars in scoring with 18 points.

Shooting statistics reflect the Pioneers' stellar defensive play, when they switched from a match-up zone to an aggressive man-to-man defense.

The Cougars were 12-of-27 (.444) from the field in the first half, when they knocked down five 3-pointers. They made only 8-of-28 (.250) shots from the floor in the second half - with two 3-pointers.

The Pioneers were 25-of-45 (.555) from the field on the night.

The state tournament runs Friday through Saturday at the University of Oregon's McArthur Court.

The winner of Thursday night's game between the Pioneers and Panthers will meet sixth-ranked Central Catholic (20-6) or fourth-ranked Sunset (22-4) Friday at 8:15 p.m. in the championship semifinals.

Other teams in the tournament include third-ranked Barlow (23-3), Tualatin (19-5), Grant (19-6) and North Medford (17-6).

Oregon City last appeared in the state tournament in 2004, when the Pioneers placed sixth, losing to then top-ranked South Medford in four overtimes in the fourth-place final. It was only the third time in school history that an Oregon City boys basketball team had placed at state. The Pioneers were state runners-up in 1945 and they captured the third-place team trophy in 1989.