SUTHERLIN — It took an upset to knock off North Valley in the quarterfinals of last year’s Class 4A boys basketball tournament.
For Sutherlin, it’ll take an even bigger upset to get past the Knights this time around.
The Bulldogs and Knights are set to meet at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis. The Knights will come equipped with the No. 1 ranking in the coaches’ poll and are No. 2 in the power rankings with a record of 24-0.
Sutherlin (19-7) is in the tournament for the first time since 2006 after defeating Madras, 50-42, Saturday in the first round of the state playoffs.
After two straight seasons of postseason heartbreak, the Knights left no doubts in their 87-52 playoff win over Brookings.
In 2011 the Knights were denied a trip to Corvallis with a double-overtime loss at Banks. As the No. 2 seed at state last season, their three games were decided by a total of six points. They lost two of them, including a 47-46 quarterfinal contest against Sisters.
Behind eight seniors, an experienced backcourt and the most sizable inside force in the 4A ranks, just two of their wins this season have been by less than 10 points.
JJ Chirnside, a 6-foot-9 senior post, recorded 17 points, 16 rebounds, six steals and four blocks against Brookings, while 6-5 wing Wyatt McCue hit three 3-pointers and had 17 points.
Kevin Brazille, a 5-7 senior point guard, led them at state last year with averages of 13 points and three assists. Junior Cameron Lyon averaged 10 points and made 7-of-11 3-pointers off the bench.
Sutherlin coach Tony Martineau is aware that the task at hand is a tall one.
“We’re going to have to be at our best,” he said after Saturday’s win. “We’re going to have to come together and defend well but we’ve fought and surprised people all year.”
Just as they did against Madras, one would expect the Bulldogs to try to get North Valley out of its offensive flow with extended defensive pressure and different full-court looks. Without a true big man comaprable to Chirnside — Derrik Wattman, the Far West League Player of the Year, is listed generously at 6-4 — they may have little choice.
Wattman has shouldered the bulk of Sutherlin’s offense since FWL play opened, and his 13 points and 11 rebounds against Madras were relatively quiet. The Bulldogs also got 10 points each from steady senior wings Taler Jensen and Cameron Mock, and nine points and four assists from sophomore guard Noah Caillier.
They’ll also get a boost with the return of senior point guard Ryan Eakin, who missed the Madras game because of a school-related issue.
Sutherlin has won six straight since a 56-50 loss at Siuslaw on Jan 29, holding opponents to an average of 45.3 points during that stretch. North Valley is averaging 69.3 points per game.
The winner will face either La Salle Prep (23-2) or Gladstone (14-9) in a Thurday semifinal at 8:15 p.m. The losers will play at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday for a spot in the fourth-place game.
• You can reach sports reporter Josh McDermott at 541-957-4219 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org