By Aden Cappello
On Feb. 17, at the end of a see-saw battle between Irrigon and Umatilla in “The Pit” with the Eastern Oregon League District Tournament title on the line, Umatilla got a game winner that sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
The Eastern Oregon League Player of the Year, Kaden Webb was Umatilla’s most likely guy to take the shot to win the game. As the Viking junior moved below the foul line he drew a double team and kicked the ball to the right wing. In front of the standing student section Sebastian Garcia let go of a smooth 3-point shot that swished to put UHS in front by two. Eight more seconds of defense and a failed heave at the buzzer left the scoreboard screaming Umatilla 61 – Irrigon 59, and a UHS celebration.
The crowd roared in excitement because Umatilla High School, the Eastern Oregon League regular season and district champions would advance to the state playoffs. And maybe more importantly, they secured a postseason home game.
Head Coach Derrek Lete says that the Irrigon game was great and a great day and atmosphere to win a Eastern Oregon League tournament title.
This Viking team bounced back from an 11-14 season and missing the playoffs in 2016 to winning the EOL title, in a stronger League with the 2A powerhouse Irrigon joining the fold. For Coach Lete the home playoff game was also important because in 2015 and 2014 the Vikings were able to clinch a playoff spot but ended up on the road against the top seeded team the 3A had to offer.
Maybe Horizon Christian of Tualatin wasn’t properly seeded either. The day came for the Vikings to face the Hawks in the first round of the OSAA 3A state playoffs. The Vikings had a sloppy start scoring only a few points in the first quarter.
Horizon Christian took advantage of that and sent out their high scorers and started to dominate the scoreboard. With Umatilla trying to catch up for the rest of the game, Horizon kept on the pressure to win the game and advanced in the playoffs
With the constant flow of 3-pointers it became clear who would come up victorious around the third quarter, as the game came to a close, the tone in the room was happy and energetic. Horizon had won, but now, Umatilla was playing for pride. The Vikings had to keeps playing hard, to show the world that they will be back and ready to take a victory against a team like Horizon Christian in the year to come. The Hawks knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs with a 66-40 win.
“A lot of things could have gone better, our shooting percentage was terrible. Horizon is a good team, and they played better than us that day,” Coach Lete said. “We will do some off-season training, attending camps, do some individual drills, stuff like that,”
Although The Vikings did lose, they do have high spirits and hopes for next year.
Along with junior Kaden Webb being selected as the EOL Player of the Year. Teammate Seth Cranston joined him on all-EOL first team. On the all-EOL second team Justin Maret and Sebastian Garcia were honored.