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

Santiam teams face tough climb as playoffs loom

The meat-grinder that is the Tri-River Conference is barreling toward its annual Darwinian playoff format, with the 16-game league season set to conclude this weekend.

The playoff math is simple. For the eight girls and boys teams that qualify, winning once and advancing to the quarterfinals earns you one of the league’s four automatic spots in the state playoffs. A win there in the opening round of 16 books you a ticket to the Class 2A tournament in Pendleton.

Santiam’s girls team was 6-7 in league play at The Canyon Weekly’s presstime, while the boys were 5-9. But the strength of the TRC really shows in the OSAA rankings, where both Wolverines teams are ranked 15th. Those high rankings mean securing one of the three at-large berths for the 2A playoffs is not out of the question.

Last season six TRC boys teams played in the 16-team first round, with five of them, Santiam, Kennedy, Regis, Salem Academy and Western Christian advancing to Pendleton. Once there, the balance and strength of the league showed: Salem Academy wound up playing Western Christian for the 2A title after Santiam, the regular-season champs, and Kennedy played in Mill City for the TRC playoff title. 

Both Santiam teams continued to show both their youth and future potential in a doubleheader on Feb. 2 vs. visiting Regis. 

The girls squad, in its second year under coach Hannah Thompson, pulled within a 29-29 tie early in the fourth quarter before the Rams used their three-point shooting to pull away for a 47-39 victory. Regis hit seven 3-pointers, including three apiece by Hadley Foster and Clara Persons. 

“Regis utilizes their three-point shooting and that is a strength of theirs,” Thompson told The Canyon Weekly. “That is a team that is going to hit some 3s no matter what. Unfortunately, we let them shoot too many open shots, but the biggest issue was their offensive rebounds off of their missed shots.”

Sophomore Maizy Downey scored 19 points to lead the Wolverines, who received all of their scoring from underclassmen. Junior Reese Longfellow added 10 points and Brooklyn Massey chipped in with five. Santiam’s 10-player roster consists of five juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen.

The Santiam boys team offers the same mixture of promising youth, with just one senior, Esai Romero. Underclassmen scored all of the team’s points in the Wolverines’ 75-59 loss to Regis last Saturday in a game that was far closer than the score indicated.

Santiam was within three points at 49-46 early in the fourth quarter after Owen Rupert’s follow shot. 

Rupert, a 6-7 junior, was a revelation for the Wolverines, leading the squad with 24 points and adding seven blocked shots. He showed a sure shot from the perimeter, nailing three 3-pointers.  Freshman Kross Martinson scored 11, including three 3-pointers from the left corner and Vital, the lone returning starter from the Wolverines’ squad that went to Pendleton a year ago, contributed 10.

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