Both the boys and girls basketball teams from Days Creek are heading to the Class 1A state tournaments in Baker City this week.
“I’ve been here since ‘82 and we’ve sent the boys multiple times and the girls multiple times, but we’ve never sent both at the same time,” Days Creek athletic director Ron Dunn said. “We’ll have a pretty good crowd there.”
Approximately 25 students will head to eastern Oregon this week, leaving a skeleton crew behind at the school which houses seventh through 12th grade.
Boys basketball coach James Ellis said it’ll be nice to have the girls to cheer on the boys, and vice versa.
The boys played their second-round playoff game at home last Friday and had the girls there to cheer them on, while the boys traveled to Country Christian on Saturday to cheer on the girls.
“It was loud and exciting,” Ellis said. “I think the girls enjoyed it. The atmosphere was outstanding.”
That same atmosphere is expected in Baker City, where the boys play No. 2 Damascus Christian at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“(Damascus Christian) is a lot like us with solid defense and they shoot well,” James Ellis said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time, do what we do and try to play good defense and execute our plays on the offense and wait for good open shots.”
Days Creek is the No. 7 seed in the boys tournament and is on a 15-game winning streak that started Jan. 8. The Wolves are hoping to extend their win streak three more games and win the state title.
“At the beginning of the season we didn’t know what to expect, but the ultimate goal was to make it to Baker City,” coach Ellis said. “We’ve achieved it and we’re pretty pumped, but I don’t think any of them feel like we can relax now. We’re going to do the best we can.”
Damascus Christian is 25-2 overall and went 18-0 in The Valley 10 League and defeated North Douglas, 44-41, in the second round.
For seniors Blake Ellis and Caleb Kruzic this will be a return to the state finals site. Both were sophomores when the Wolves made it to the tournament in 2016-17.
“They’re the only two who have been before, but this has been a real team effort,” coach Ellis said. “This is the most unselfish team I’ve coached.”
The girls will also play Damascus Christian in their return to the state tournament.
“We expect to have a ton of fun and compete,” Days Creek girls coach Matt Crume said. “I think we have a good chance against Damascus.”
Days Creek comes in as the No. 13 seed after defeating No. 4 Country Christian, 68-61, in the second round Saturday. Damascus Christian defeated North Douglas, 36-25, on Saturday and is the No. 12 seed at the state finals site.
“I try to encourage the girls not to worry about the rankings,” Crume said. “They don’t always reflect what’s going on.”
No. 11 Perrydale, No. 10 Crane and No. 9 Joseph also made it to the state finals, upsetting teams in the second round of the playoffs. Rankings are based on performance throughout the season, but can be skewed when key players get injured and return later in the season.
Days Creek is returning to the state tournament for the second consecutive year, finishing fifth last season.
“Last year when we were done, they went ‘We could’ve played with the No. 1 and the No. 2 teams,’” Crume said. “Sometimes it just comes down to rebounds or steals, it’s really close.”
Damascus Christian is also making its return, losing just one senior from last year’s team which fell in the consolation bracket.
“One of the things (assistant coach) Laura (Stufflebeam) and I are working on is, sometimes when us coaches get stressed we try to shake it and put it into perspective,” Crume said. “It’s just basketball and we should have fun.”