The state tournament win that the Knappa Loggers ordered last year finally arrived Thursday afternoon, as they opened the 2A boys’ state tournament in Pendleton with a 53-50 quarterfinal victory over Oakland.
Knappa was the No. 3 seed entering last year’s tournament, only to suffer a 52-50 upset at the hands of No. 11 seed Vernonia.
In their return to Pendleton, the Loggers (21-8 overall) built a solid third-quarter lead and made just one field goal in the fourth, but still held on for the victory. The Oakers finish with a 25-3 record.
“I’m just really proud of how the kids battled,” said Knappa coach Paul Isom. “Beating a team like Oakland with a coach like Jeff Clark is a hell of an accomplishment.”
Knappa’s Timber Engblom poured in 29 points, and the Loggers cut down the Oakers in another postseason game. Knappa is 4-0 against Oakland in state playoff competition since 2014 (2-0 in football, one win each in baseball and basketball).
Now it’s on to the Final Four in basketball, where the Loggers will face a familiar foe, Columbia Christian, for the fourth time this season.
Meanwhile, the Oakers made Knappa work for Thursday’s victory.
A dunk by Oakland’s Colton Brownson highlighted an 11-6 run to start the game for the Oakers.
The Loggers recovered quickly, however, with baskets from Ty Vanderburg, Kanai Phillip and Eli Takalo, and Engblom’s score off a turnover gave Knappa a 14-11 lead.
Another turnover and basket by Engblom made it 16-11, and Engblom’s third straight score gave the Loggers an 18-11 lead to complete a 12-0 run to end the first quarter.
In the second period, a flurry of five 3-pointers (two from Knappa, Mason Westerholm and Devin Hoover) and six straight missed free throws by Oakland resulted in a 28-28 halftime tie.
More Oakland turnovers and scores by Engblom gave Knappa a 43-33 advantage late in the third quarter, but Oakland didn’t fold, rallying to within 45-42 midway through the fourth.
The Loggers responded with Engblom scoring following a timeout. Takalo made two free throws with 2:49 remaining, and Engblom’s layup with just under two minutes left made it 51-42.
Still, the Loggers struggled at the free throw line (4-for-10 in the fourth quarter), while a pair of 3-pointers by the Oakers helped Oakland cut the deficit to 53-50 with 27 seconds left.
Oakland missed a 3-point attempt in the final seconds, and Takalo dribbled out the remaining time for the win.
“I knew Oakland wasn’t just going to roll over and they didn’t,” Isom said. “They hit some big shots, but our kids just kept fighting. Timber obviously was awesome. Every time Oakland wanted to make a run Timber made a play.”
The Oakers struggled with 19 turnovers and 10 missed free throws (5-for-15).
Engblom also had five steals defensively with seven rebounds, and teammate Joe Ramvick had a team-high eight boards.