Suiting up against a group of Warrior standouts from the past on Monday evening, the Philomath High boys basketball team got in some needed minutes on the hardwood before turning its attention to the Class 4A playoffs.
Philomath heads into the postseason as the No. 1 seed but the squad finished the regular season on a down note with a three-point loss to rival Cascade to settle for runner-up in the Oregon West Conference. Still, the Warriors have put together an impressive 19-3 season with several of those victories coming over quality opponents.
Philomath will host a first-round game at 6 p.m. Saturday when Hidden Valley visits. The winner will advance to the 4A tournament March 9-11 at Forest Grove.
“At times I felt really good,” Warriors boys basketball coach Blake Ecker said about his team following the exhibition game. “Like in the first half, we played pretty well and then we just made some bonehead decisions in the second half. But a point to make, too, is it’s a little bit of a different atmosphere, it’s not as intense.”
The group of PHS alumni ended the game with an 11-0 run to rally for a 71-67 victory. As Ecker indicated, the game had more of a fun vibe to it but that doesn’t mean the high schoolers didn’t care about winning.
In fact, Ecker had a strategy against his former players.
“I think they’re all playing a little bit here and there,” Ecker said. “Of course, city league is not super intense and our goal was to run them even harder but we just didn’t do it very well. That’s not what we do — take off as fast as we can all the time so it was hard to get them to do that. But our goal was to get them tired.”
Ecker several years ago had a challenging experience in an alumni game.
“We had an alumni football game back in ’96 or something like that and I played in it,” Ecker said. “I was a quarterback and it was interesting the next day — I couldn’t even lift my head up off the pillow.”
Six of the seven players on the alumni team featured athletes that played either basketball or football collegiately — Trey Ecker (College of the Redwoods, Linn-Benton Community College), Cal Stueve (Oregon Tech), Toby Stueve (LBCC), Ben DeSaulnier (Southern Oregon), Riley Davis (LBCC) and John Hanson (Western Oregon). The roster also included Marshall Brattain.
Dawson Brattain served as the group’s coach.
Cal Stueve (Class of ’17) scored 23 points to lead a group of four players in double figures. Toby Stueve (Class of ’20) hit for 15, DeSaulnier (Class of ’14) scored 13 and Trey Ecker (Class of ’15) had 10.
“I appreciate those guys coming back and helping us out,” Ecker said.
For the high schoolers, Jacob Peters had a team-high 20 points with 12 from Ty May and 11 from Cole Beardsley.
Philomath had scheduled a tuneup game to be played Feb. 23 at North Eugene but it was canceled because of those challenging weather conditions that hit the region last week. The top-10 Class 5A school did play Junction City and lost, 57-44. The Tigers have lost just twice this season — both of those coming against Philomath.