Is there such a thing as too much of a home court advantage?
If there is, the Knappa Loggers may have it.
The Loggers could — and did — beat just about everybody last year. At home.
Knappa defeated No. 1-ranked Western Mennonite, at Knappa. The Loggers also topped eventual 2A champion Columbia Christian and third-place Vernonia, at Knappa.
It was a different story on the road or neutral sites.
Knappa lost twice to Columbia Christian (66-46 at Columbia Christian, and 64-44 in Forest Grove), and in one of the biggest upsets of the season, Vernonia defeated Knappa 52-50 in a state quarterfinal game at Pendleton.
The No. 3 seed Loggers were a disappointing 0-2 at the state tournament — a rough ending to an otherwise great season (23-6 overall, 17-1 in league).
There’s at least one change on the sidelines this year, as former Logger Paul Isom takes over the coaching reigns from Chris Spencer.
And Isom would just as soon forget about last season.
“We’ve just been trying to forget about last year, and let last year be last year,” he said. “Especially with these new kids stepping up, I don’t want to dwell on last year. We’ll just try to do what we can now, and control what we can control.”
Which is get back to winning, like they do every year at Knappa. The Loggers have not missed the state playoffs since 2012-13.
Knappa will still win most (if not all) of its home games, but the Loggers will face a tough challenge from Columbia Christian, home or away.
“Columbia Christian is probably the top team in the state,” Isom said. “They’re playing in the Les Schwab tournament this year. Their best player, Ben Gregg (6-foot-8 sophomore), I heard he’s already had an offer from Texas. He will be the one of the best players in the state, in any classification.
“They would compete for a state title in any class,” he said of the Knights. “They lost one senior, and they replaced him with a big 6-6 kid who can shoot. They’ll be the top dog.”
After that, it’s a question mark, Isom said. “Gaston should be pretty good, with a really athletic team. You never know with Portland Christian and who they have. Vernonia, losing Clay Sullivan will be tough to deal with, but they still have his brother (Kale), and he’s a good point guard.”
Knappa’s nonleague schedule “is brutal,” he said. “We play Toledo to open the year, and they could be a top three or four team in the state. We open the Dayton Christmas tournament with Dayton, which is one of the 3A favorites. Then our last regular-season game is Senior Night at Seaside.”
The big losses were indeed big, as all-state players Dale Takalo and Colton Weirup have graduated.
“We lost a lot of important seniors,” Isom said. “Two top 20 scorers, and Dale was top three in Knappa history, which is a pretty prestigious board. That’s a lot to fill.”
So, “we have guys stepping into different roles,” he said. “We’ll have Eli Takalo (Jr.) taking on more of the scoring load, and Timber Engblom (Sr.) is another who will look to score more points.
“The guys who were sort of secondary players last year, like (juniors) Kanai Phillip, Joe Ramvick and Devin Hoover (So.), all three will have to help pick up that slack.”
Other seniors include varsity returners Tyler Green and Ty Vanderburg, and Ryker Coffey off the junior varsity.
Knappa’s big addition was Tristin Wallace, a senior transfer from Astoria, who missed last season with a knee injury.
“He’s another who can put the ball in the basket and take up some of that scoring load from last year,” Isom said. “He hasn’t picked up a ball in a year and a half, but he’s knocking off some of the rust. He’s such a smart player, he can go out there and direct traffic. He will be a nice addition.”
The juniors include Jaxson Goodman and Mason Westerholm, a 6-4 post who “practically lived in the gym this summer, and it shows,” Isom said. “He’s playing well early.”
Assisting Isom on varsity will be Jed Miethe and Tim Pietsch, while James Nichols will coach the JV II squad.
Coach: Paul Isom, 1st year
2017-18: 23-6 (17-1 league)
Playoffs: Defeated Reedsport (81-35) in state playoff. Lost to Vernonia (50-52) and Kennedy (50-55) at state tournament.
All-league losses: Dale Takalo, Colton Weirup
All-league returners: Joe Ramvick, Jr., Eli Takalo, Jr.