KNAPPA — Eight years without a state championship. In the world of Knappa boys basketball, that’s considered a drought.
But if they play like they did Friday night, the Knappa Loggers could finally bring that streak to an end, as they made a solid case for “best in state” in a Sweet 16 win over visiting Reedsport, 81-35.
“Ticket punched,” said Knappa boys basketball coach Chris Spencer, referring to his team’s clinching a spot at the Class 2A state tournament in Pendleton.
Like the previous 11 teams that have played in the Loggers’ Den (including the top two ranked teams in the state), the Braves never had a chance.
Reedsport did hold an early 4-0 lead, but that was the highlight of the night for the same school that lost to Knappa in last year’s state championship baseball game, when the Braves squandered a six-run lead in the seventh inning.
The Loggers didn’t need a late-game rally to win this one.
After spotting Reedsport four points, Knappa scored the next 12 and never looked back.
Eli Takalo, Colton Weirup and Timber Engblom each made a 3-pointer in the first quarter. The same three, plus Ty Vanderburg, knocked down treys in the second quarter, and the Loggers finished the first half 7-for-15 from the 3-point line. Thank you, home court advantage.
“It’s nice to be at home,” Spencer said. “It was a packed house with an electric atmosphere, and sometimes you feed off that and you’re able to take advantage of things. Our guys were ready.
“Dale (Takalo) had a huge game, Eli hit a couple threes and Timber had two in the first half.”
The Loggers finished 10-of-26 from the arc. Dale Takalo scored a game-high 21 points and Eli added 20, as the Takalo brothers outscored Reedsport by themselves.
Knappa remained hot in the third quarter, then spent most of the fourth shooting free throws, where the Loggers finished 11-of-19 at the line, to Reedsport’s 2-for-11.
While Knappa was knocking down every shot within 20 feet, the Braves couldn’t buy a basket on anything under five feet.
Reedsport opened the third quarter 1-of-9, missing several close-range opportunities. The Braves finished the second half 5-for-30 from the field.
Meanwhile, the Loggers could have a nice path to the semifinals once they get to Pendleton.
Knappa will open the tournament at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against Vernonia, the lowest-ranked team. The Loggers beat them twice in the regular season, both times by large margins.
The winner will play either Kennedy or Columbia Christian Friday at 8:15 p.m.
Still, “it will be a tough game,” Spencer said of Vernonia. “They’ve got our league’s Player of the Year, and maybe the state Player of the Year (in senior Clay Sullivan). Both communities travel well and support their teams. It comes down to which team keeps their composure and handles the atmosphere of the state tournament.
“We’re expecting to have a big following there,” he said. “Like they say, ‘the last one leaving Knappa, remember to turn out the lights.’”