Blake Ecker and team
Blake Ecker's PHS boys basketball team is ranked No. 4 in a preseason coaches poll. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath High School boys basketball coach Blake Ecker believes he has a pretty solid varsity roster with 10 guys who can contribute in a variety of ways. But as a new season approaches, he also needs answers to figure out the right combination of players to put on the floor.

“It’s status quo right now … I think it’ll come together,” Ecker said Saturday morning during a workout in the PHS gym. “We need to be able to play together better. There are times that we won’t play together and maybe try to attack 1 on 3. So we’ve got to be patient with the basketball and move the basketball and attack as the defense is shifting.”

PHS junior Ty May can muscle inside and hit from the outside. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Consistency appears to be an issue — at least in preseason drills. The Warriors had some rough stretches during the pie auction scrimmage early last week and have experienced ups and downs in team practices.

“It’s kind of hard to tell … there are days we look better than others,” Ecker said. “Today we looked really good, but the JVs didn’t play real well.”

The rest of the state gives Philomath a lot of respect with a No. 4 preseason ranking in the OSAAtoday coaches poll.

The Warriors overall return a solid lineup to a program that’s won 30 of 39 games over the past two seasons. Returning starters include senior guard Cole Matthews, junior post Ty May and junior post Chad Russell. Junior Cole Beardsley had a handful of starts and also saw significant minutes last season.

Senior guard Cameron Ordway got in some varsity time as well and is back in uniform. Senior guard Carson Gerding returns to the program after missing last spring’s shortened season with a football injury. Senior post Isaac Lattin, senior post Logan Carter, sophomore guard Preston Kramer and sophomore post Jacob Peters complete the varsity roster heading into the season.

“We have a bunch of guys coming back from last year’s squad,” Ecker said. “We still have a long ways to go but we could be a pretty good team.”

Philomath will be able to put good height on the floor with May and Russell, each listed at 6-foot-7. May has seen some time on the outside as well with Ecker mixing up the attack. Plus, the veteran coach believes he has a solid group of backups, such as Lattin and Peters.

The two sophomores on varsity — Peters and Kramer — have both impressed in preseason drills. Ecker believes Peters can contribute in different setups while Kramer possesses the ability to bury 3-pointers.

“I think we have a solid 10 and they all can play,” he said. “They’re all pretty good so it’s going to be hard playing-time wise to get them all in.”

The post guys tend to get in foul trouble more frequently than the guards but Ecker thinks Lattin and Peters can step right in off the bench if needed in that capacity.

The Warriors have a healthy number of players in the program with 34. Eddie Van Vlack and Aaron Schermerhorn will again run the JV and JV2 programs, respectively. Trey Ecker will be on the varsity bench alongside his dad as an assistant.

Philomath opens the season Wednesday with a 7 p.m. tip-off at Corvallis High, a Class 5A school. The game represents the beginning of a true road challenge with Philomath playing only once on the home court during the month of December.

“I don’t know why we play on the road so much,” Ecker said. “And you know, we’re lacking a couple of games but every time somebody calls, they want us to go there.”

With a planned tournament appearance in Alaska canceled, the Warriors scheduled a Dec. 11 game against Tillamook in the Moda Center in Portland along with late-December jaunt to Portland for a tournament hosted by 3A Riverdale. The Warriors will also play in the South Coast Les Schwab Tournament in Coos Bay.

Warriors senior Cole Matthews returns at guard. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Ecker expects a competitive battle in the Oregon West Conference with Cascade, Woodburn and Stayton all capable programs.

“Cascade is going to be really good … they’ve got a bunch of guys back, they’ve got their tall kid back and I think there were a couple of transfers,” Ecker said.

The Cougars were ranked No. 2 in the preseason coaches poll with Philomath at No. 4, Woodburn at No. 9 and Stayton at No. 10.

In all of Class 4A, Marshfield looks like the team to beat as the season gets started.

“They’re probably the odds-on favorite — them and maybe Cascade,” Ecker said. “Cascade lost a point guard who was pretty good, so they need to replace him. And Junction City, they’re on our schedule, they’re going to be good.”

Marist Catholic, Seaside, Banks and Gladstone were other top teams making the top 10 in the coaches poll. has no paywall and to keep it that way, we rely on voluntary memberships. If you’re already a member, thank you for contributing. To join our community as a member or to make a one-time contribution, please CLICK HERE.