Willamina — The eye test truly is a measure of evaluation, and man did the #1 Willamina Bulldogs put me in my place. A squad that I was skeptical of early on, they put on a mammoth show on Tuesday against #5 Santiam Christian, swiftly disposing of the Eagles 46-9 in about an hour and five minutes. What I witnessed on Tuesday was nothing short of insane, but ultimately a massive impression that convinces me without a doubt that Willamina will likely win their first state title in school history. With all due respect to the rest of 3A, Willamina is on another planet consistently and deserves this badge of honor. The last team to get this recognition won the state title: 2A Salem Academy Volleyball.
Nyssa has 6’5″ Gracie Johnson, but Willamina has 6’3″ Cam Eaglestaff running the show. Eaglestaff boasts some muscle to go along with that tall frame, changing the game even more for opponents who try to stop her. She absolutely dominates the boards, merely needing to reach a bit higher than her opponents and pogo sticking the ball back up for the bucket. Eaglestaff came to Willamina as a transfer after bouncing around the Portland Metro the last three years, now averaging a double-double per game and becoming the anchor of the Bulldogs makeover on both sides of the ball. Her post presence opens up the game for Grace France, Bahley Scranton, and Hallee Hughes, all of whom present perimeter threats and mid-range games that can follow up to Eaglestaff’s post dominance. Scranton leads all of them in perimeter shooting, averaging around a 30-35% clip this season so far, Hughes is an inside-out threat who is a rebounding hog but can also put-up points from all parts of the floor. As for France, she’s a complimentary starter who acts as a court general, always shouting on the floor and keeping the talk going.
Willamina is a defensive powerhouse, running a 2-3 zone that makes everything a nightmare for opponents. Their keys to success? Eaglestaff throws up a brick wall in the post, allowing the rest to steal the ball and get on the fastbreak. The Bulldogs average around 17 steals a game, with France leading the team in that category and truly shining in the defensive role. Hughes, Scranton, and Kena Rankin also benefit greatly from this help, all averaging at least two steals a game and always being on the prowl for forcing a turnover. Hughes also has a fourth weapon in her arsenal: Blocked shots. Averaging over a block per game, her multi-tooled weapon belt makes Hughes arguably the best player that the Bulldogs have in their arsenal. Their defensive and offensive dominance will certainly lead them to an undefeated regular season, with a run at the 3A state title most likely on tap for the Bulldogs.
Out of all the classes in Oregon, Willamina seems to be the one program that has their class on lockdown at this point. A date with Nyssa in the state tournament would certainly be their toughest task, a battle of two teams that balance each other out in all aspects of the game. It would be a pay-per-view made game, but with injuries and COVID, anything can happen before we get that far in the season. Until dethroned or exposed, the Willamina Bulldogs are above and beyond the best team in 3A.