In the first edition of some hardwood takes for 2022, there are plenty of things happening across the landscape as conferences begin to duel it out. This edition is dominated by the small schools, which have found some clarity throughout conferences and has shown reflection in the rankings as they stand. Here are the headliners as we enter into Martin Luther King Jr. Day action on Monday:
Philomath Goes For The Punch, Takes Control Of The Oregon West
For all of those who suggested that anyone was better than Philomath in 4A, this is a huge blow to that narrative. The top-ranked Warriors took on #2 Cascade and #10 Woodburn in the last two weeks, boasting a 23-game conference winning streak entering a showdown with #2 Cascade back on January 7th. Sage Kramer and Abigail Brown ruled the day, combining for 28 of Philomath’s 41 points as they took out the Cougars 41-34. With a cruise win over Sweet Home to make it 25 straight Oregon West wins, Kramer and Brown combined again to dominate the Woodburn Bulldogs, extending their conference win streak to 26 and knocking off the lone remaining undefeated team in their conference to once again be in sole control. Their biggest game remaining is a February 1st rematch with #2 Cascade in Turner, a test of their winning streak and the Cougars ability to measure up against the Warriors.
2A’s Newest Partygoers – Nestucca and Coquille
A couple of surprises have emerged up from silently being in the woodwork to the 2A attention: Nestucca and Coquille. With second-year head coach Tevin Gianella at the helm, the Bobcats have put up an impressive 8-4 record and an eye-grabbing 5-1 record in Northwest League play, fighting with Faith Bible to a 60-50 loss. Nestucca has emerged as the #2 in the conference, as Vernonia got a harsh reality hit by that same Faith Bible in the form of a 50-29 defeat. Tuesday’s game in Vernonia will be the ultimate test of who’s the next best team in the conference, with the odds tipping in the Bobcats favor as of recently.
Down in the Sunset Conference, Coquille has had a quiet rise to not only the 2A Top 10, but a fight for hosting a playoff match this winter. That’s certainly not bad for a program led by first-year head coach Marty Stallard, who only churned out two victories in the whole spring season. Hailey Combie leads the path, as the 5’11” senior averages the most points on the team this season. She has a balanced attack beside her, with help ranging from emerging freshman Holli Vigue to senior Kyndall Leep. The team has a string of wins over 2A playoff teams in Oakland, Myrtle Point, and Bandon, finding themselves on top of the Sunset Conference for the first time since 2018 when the program finished state runner-up to Heppner in Pendleton. With some experience and favorable draws, the 2021-22 edition might be back up in Pendleton again this winter.
Mohawk Handles Eddyville Charter, Takes Clear Control Of The Mountain West
I almost covered this pairing on Thursday night down in Mohawk, as it presented two programs who were the clear top dogs in the Mountain West race entering the day. When the final buzzer sounded, the Mohawk Mustangs were the clear favorite to take the conference title, easily handling Eddyville 48-24 to move into the top spot near the halfway point of the conference schedule. The Mustangs have won each conference game by an average of 34.6 points, showing exceptional dominance in their hot start to the conference schedule.
MLK Jr Day Will Decide PIL Control
On a day where Portland has traditionally put together hoops on a day to honor civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr, the 2022 edition will feature a showdown to take control of the PIL title race. An upbeat, youthful Jefferson team goes to a head with the Benson Lady Techsters, in a game that will decide who is the best that the PIL has to offer. Freshman duo Chauncey Anderson and Abrianna Lawrence will go to a head with Malaya LeSeur and Mahogany Chandler-Roberts, alongside role appearances from Maurianna Hashemian-Orr, Charisma Johnson, Ja’Oshia Jones, and Oria Boyd among others. This has plenty of star power and conference implications, a beautiful treat to see on an important holiday.