News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Santiam boys take to road for 2A playoffs

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The Santiam High boys basketball team will go on the road for the Class 2A playoffs.

The Wolverines, seeded No. 10 in the 16-team tournament, visit No. 7 Gold Beach at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner advances to a Thursday, March 2, 8:15 p.m. quarterfinal at the Pendleton Convention Center against either No. 15 Portland Christian or No. 2 Kennedy.

Santiam, 19-6, has a lot of experience with Kennedy. The Wolverines defeated the Trojans 55-52 and 54-47 during the Tri-River Conference regular season and lost to the Trojans 55-53 last Saturday in the conference title game.

J.D. Hill
J.D. Hill

“Frustrating loss, but it’s hard to beat a good team three times,” Santiam coach J.D. Hill told The Canyon Weekly. “Kennedy was clearly motivated and played very well. I’m proud of my guys for battling to the end and getting back into the game. It’s the toughest league in the state and we’ve got more wins than anyone else in it during league play.”

The JFK-Santiam matchup was a corker, played before  a packed house in Mill City. The Wolverines led 13-10 at the quarter. Kennedy led 26-24 at the half, and the Trojans appeared to take control in the third period. 

The visitors broke out of a 26-26 tie and embarked on a 17-4 run to take a 43-30 lead on a Charlie Beyer 3-pointer with 44 seconds left in the period. But the Wolverines climbed back to within 43-35 at the period break on a 3-pointer and a bank shot by Ezra Downey. 

The Santiam momentum continued into the 4th period. Downey hit a drive for 43-37 and then after a Kennedy turnover, guard Quentin Clark of theWolverines drove hard to the basket and was fouled. Clark, a 5-8 senior, emerged from the play with a bloody nose and a soiled uniform. He changed from his No. 11 jersey to No. 2, stuffed some cotton up his nostril and sank both free throws for a 43-39 score. 

Kennedy then committed another turnover and Santiam’s Gage Twede took advantage to rail a 3-pointer for a 43-42 count. 

Brett Boen of Kennedy banked in a shot for a 45-42, but Clark answered with a 3-pointer. With 4:24 left the game was tied 45-45.

Boen, a 6-4 senior who led the Trojans with 18 points, poured in six of them as the visitors stretched the lead to 55-50 with 41 seconds left. 

But Santiam rallied again, with Trenton Stafford’s gutsy rebound basket and free throw pulling the Wolverines within 55-53 with 28.3 seconds left. Kennedy missed a free throw at the other end, and Santiam had two possessions to try to connect on a tying bucket in the final 17.5 seconds but could not convert.

Clark led the Wolverines with 18 points, including 11 of 12 free throws. Downey added 16 and Twede 12, with the trio accounting for 46 of the squad’s 53 points.

Beyer backed up Boen with 12 points for Kennedy. Ethan Kleinschmit added 8.

Gold Beach, Santiam’s Saturday opponent, is 22-5 overall. The Panthers won the Valley Coast Conference regular season title with a 15-1 mark but fell to Oakland in the league playoffs. Gold Beach and Santiam did not play a common opponent. 

“They’re a good team and Gold Beach will be a tough location to get a win,” Hill said. “They have arguably the best player at the 2A level, Gianni Altman. He scores over 30 points per game and can shoot from pretty much anywhere past half court. We have some of the best guards in the state ourselves, so I think we match up with them well and can provide a challenge they aren’t quite accustomed to.”

Santiam, for once, will have the size advantage. The Wolverines feature Jesse Dana, a 6-4 post, while the tallest Gold Beach player is 6-2. Altman is listed at 5-11. 

Ezra Downey
Ezra Downey

“It will be nice that the size matchups will favor us this game as well,” Hill said. “We’re just excited to be at this point in the season. It’s what we’ve been waiting for all year.”

Hill’s Wolverines won a state title in 2017 with a team led by current assistant coach Julian Downey and his brother Jonah, Ezra’s older brothers. Santiam also advanced to Pendleton in 2019, where they finished 6th and 2020, when they were 4th.

The all-Tri-River Conference all-star team was announced in a post-game ceremony, and Hill of the Wolverines shared top coaching honors with Ben Brown of Salem Academy. Downey and Twede were named to the first team, Clark was a second-teamer, Dana was listed on the third team and Stafford and Xavier Vital received honorable mention.

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