PHS senior Cole Beardsley's chocolate peanut butter pie brought in the biggest bid of the evening at $650. (Photo by Pepper Borton/Philomath News)

Any way you slice it, the Philomath High boys basketball program came up as the big winners on Tuesday night at its annual pie auction fundraiser.

Warriors senior Cole Beardsley’s chocolate peanut butter pie brought in the evening’s highest bid at $650. As it turned out, his grandparents will be writing the check to keep the pie in the family.

The money raised will help the team cover various expenses, including those to be incurred Dec. 28-30 on the longest road trip of the season.

“We’re going to Alaska this year and every tournament we go to, staying places, it’s all a big part of it,” Beardsley said about the fundraiser. “I know our team really appreciates it.”

PHS head coach Blake Ecker can’t recall exactly when the pie auction tradition got started, but he loves the idea of moms and sons teaming up in the kitchen.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to get together and have a bonding experience with your mom that you normally might not do,” Ecker said, whose own wife and son were among those who participated in the past. “When does a kid make a pie with their mom? Not very often.”

The pie auction fundraiser represents the basketball program’s biggest of the year.

PHS senior Chad Russell scores on a slam dunk during Tuesday’s scrimmages. (Photo by Pepper Borton/Philomath News)

“You know, it provides uniforms for us and pays for the Alaska trip and basketballs,” Ecker said. “We have a $500 budget, that’s all we have, and so that goes pretty quick.”

The basketball team’s trip to a tournament in Ketchikan, Alaska, dates back two decades to 2002 with participation occurring pretty much on an every-other-year basis — COVID disrupted that schedule the last few times out (the team hasn’t participated since 2018). The players don’t pay anything to go on the trip.

The auction brings at least $100 and often upwards of $200, $300, $400 or more for each pie. The players walk up down the bleachers and show off each pie to try to entice bidders.

Behind the mic as auctioneer again this year was Rusty Jensen, who helped in that capacity for several years.

“His nephews played for me and so he’s come to the games and we were friends, so I asked him to do it one time … and we just kinda kept having him do it,” Ecker said. “He’s been doing it for quite a few years and you know, he’s a good guy, he really supports the community and other programs.”

The pie auction brings in funds to help the boys basketball team cover the season’s major expenses. (Photo by Pepper Borton/Philomath News)

Beyond the peddling of pies, the players also scrimmaged in front of the PHS gymnasium crowd. The varsity, junior varsity and JV2 teams all saw time on the floor for an eight-minute “game.” Timeouts are called and Jensen springs into action auctioning off pies.

“It was good to get our guys together and see what we’re about this year,” Beardsley said about the scrimmage. “But we’ve got stuff to improve on that’s for sure.”

Philomath had a pretty good run in 2021-22 with a 21-6 overall record and fourth-place trophy at the Class 4A state tournament. The Warriors are scheduled to open the season at home on Dec. 3 against Junction City, last season’s state runner-up.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.

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