by Mike Weber
for the Burns Times-Herald
Burns returned home from the state tournament with a trophy for the first time since 2009. (Photo by MIKE WEBER)
The Burns Hilanders boys basketball team capped one of its best seasons in recent history with a fourth place trophy following a thrilling 48-47 double overtime win over the Western Mennonite Pioneers Saturday, March 7, in the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires Class 2A State Tournament at the Pendleton Convention Center.
Burns junior guard Trace Tiller (15 points) sank the game-winning free throw with 18.2 seconds left in the second four-minute overtime period to help provide the Hilanders (23-7) with the victory. Tiller grabbed a key rebound following a missed Pioneer shot and he was fouled immediately by the Pioneers. He then sank one-of-two from the line, giving Burns a 48-44 advantage. The Pioneers (20-10) sank a three-point field goal on their ensuing offensive possession for the final one-point margin.
Burns concluded a remarkably successful season (first at 2A level) as first-year coach Mick Miller led the Hilanders to the Wapiti League championship and their first state tourney appearance in six years.
“The kids gave it all they had while showing lots of heartfelt desire and they really played hard,” said Miller. “Western Mennonite is a very good team and they had the last shot of the first overtime and missed it, so they definitely had a good chance to win. It feels awesome to get the win. Everybody stepped up and made clutch shots and got key rebounds when we needed them, including Ty Hueckman, Trace Tiller, Austin Feist, Boyd Vinson and Zach McDonald, along with tough defense by Trey Recanzone. It was an all around team victory. This fulfills our goal of what we had at the beginning of the season. If we didn’t have to play Irrigon in our first game, then we might’ve had a little better trophy, but this is a very nice way to conclude our season, and it was a great year.”
Trace Tiller goes strong to the basket in the final quarter of the Hilanders’ playoff game with Oakridge. (Photo by MIKE WEBER)
Burns, ranked No. 9 prior to the three-day, eight-team event, had an extremely tough opening matchup versus the No. 1 ranked and defending state champion Irrigon Knights (27-1) in Thursday’s 1:30 p.m. quarterfinal at Pendleton High School.
Burns had the early momentum and took a 6-2 lead on a three-point field goal by Hueckman (16 pts.). Feist (10 pts., 10 rebounds), who earned the Moda Health Player-of-the-Game Award, scored on a jump shot in the lane midway through the first quarter for an 8-4 Hilanders advantage. The Columbia Basin Conference champion Knights then went on a 5-0 run to take a 9-8 lead and never trailed again while building a 20-15 margin after one quarter.
Irrigon scored the first three points of the second quarter to take a 23-15 advantage. The Hilanders responded with a 7-0 run, capped by Hueckman’s three-point field goal to make it 23-22, forcing an Irrigon timeout with three minutes, 12 seconds left in the quarter. The teams traded baskets as both scored on their offensive possessions and Irrigon led 27-26 at halftime.
Irrigon came out and played with a higher intensity level in the second half to take control. Leading 32-29 with 6:01 left in the third, Irrigon went on an 11-3 run to build a double-digit 43-32 lead with 2:24 remaining in the quarter. Burns, which wouldn’t get any closer again, trailed 47-35 after three. Irrigon’s momentum continued in the fourth as they dominated the final eight minutes, outscoring Burns 17-3 to pull away for a 64-38 win. With the win, Irrigon advanced to Friday’s semifinals and won 74-43 over Regis (22-7). Irrigon then won its second consecutive state title after a 65-53 win over Toledo (25-5) in Saturday’s championship game.
Burns senior Austin Feist hits a jumper from the side in the Hilanders’ win over Oakridge. (Photo by MIKE WEBER)
“We controlled the tempo in the first half, but they controlled the tempo in the second half,” said Miller. “Irrigon is a very good team and they’re the best team we’ve played all year. I just think they were in a little better shape than us. They’re very quick, which made it tough to defend them and they’re conditioning level seemed to be a little better than ours.”
Burns then had to quickly forget about the loss, since it had to play in Friday’s 9 a.m. consolation round game versus the Oakridge Warriors (22-5) in an elimination game in which the loser would conclude their season without a earning a prestigious trophy. Burns took control of a hard fought, close game with a dominating fourth quarter, outscoring Oakridge 15-2 for a 50-38 victory at the Pendleton Convention Center.
In a seesaw battle that was tied nine times and included 10 lead changes, Burns trailed 10-8 at the end of the opening quarter. Burns took its first lead of the game when Feist drove into the middle of the lane for a layup, making it 12-10 with 7:23 left in the quarter. The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the quarter, with Burns up 21-20 at halftime.
The two evenly matched teams continued their tough battle as both played with a sense of urgency as neither squad wanted to end its season. Oakridge, led by senior Gerry Snyder’s 19 points, outscored Burns 16-14 in the quarter to take a 36-35 lead going into the final period.
Ty Hueckman beats the defense down the floor for a lay-in against Oakridge. (Photo by MIKE WEBER)
After each squad opened the fourth with a basket on their first possession, Oakridge remained ahead 38-37 with 5:53 left in the game. That marked the turning point of what had been a closely contested and tight game. Burns took control by crashing the boards to get a 47-31 total rebounding advantage over Oakridge. The Hilanders utilized a solid, aggressive man-to-man defense to thwart the Oakridge offense late in the game. Feist proved to be a thorn in the Warriors side as he ignited a 13-0 rally to help spearhead the victory.
A Feist outside jumper, followed by a pair of Taylor Klus free throws and Feist’s layup in the lane made it 45-38, forcing an Oakridge timeout with 2:25 left in the contest. After McDonald (four pts.) scored in the post, Tiller (four pts., nine rebs.) and Hueckman (nine pts.) both sank free throws after Warrior fouls to lift Burns in front at the end at 50-38.
“I didn’t want this to be my last game ever,” said Feist, who had a double-double with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three steals and three assists, while also earning another Moda Health Player-of-the-Game Award. “Our coach (Miller) helped us to get focused on forgetting about the Irrigon game and he just wanted us to concentrate on playing our best against Oakridge. I was just trying to do the best I could to help us get the win. I felt like I was able to drive to the hoop and finish strong there by scoring some points. Coach (Miller) told us that we had to play the best defense that we could play all year in the fourth quarter, which we did because they didn’t score much.”
The huge win guaranteed that Burns would earn a state tournament trophy for the first time since 2009, when they took sixth place in the Class 3A state tournament. Burns then would prepare for another big state tournament game just 24 hours later as they met the No. 8 ranked Pioneers in Saturday’s 10:45 a.m. fourth/sixth place trophy contest.
Sophomore Scott Davies lofts up a shot against a Western Mennonite defender. (Photo by MIKE WEBER)
“Austin is a really special player who is averaging a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds a game,” said Miller. “He always plays his heart out because he hates to lose. It was real team effort in getting the win and I’m proud of all our guys. We played good team defense near the end, but we didn’t do to well earlier in the game. We were tired early in the game, mainly because I think we were still feeling the adverse effects of a tough loss to Irrigon the day before. We’ve achieved our goal now of getting a trophy and it will be nice playing again on Saturday.”
In another seesaw contest with numerous ties and lead changes, Burns jumped ahead 12-6 midway through the first quarter for its largest lead of the game after consecutive outside jumpers by Tiller, including a 3-pointer. The Pioneers, who took fourth place in 2014 and were in their 10th straight tournament, responded with a 6-0 run, knotting it 12-12 after one quarter.
The teams continued trading baskets as both developed a good offensive rhythm and a buzzer beater by Daniel Domes (six pts.) lifted the Pioneers in front 24-21 at halftime. Early in the third the sharpshooting Tiller fired in back-to-back three-pointers for a 29-29 deadlock midway through the quarter. The Pioneers Simeon Hess (10 pts.) sank a buzzer beater to give Western Mennonite a 34-32 lead after three.
Five deadlock scores followed in the fourth, but both teams had a chance to win in regulation time. Feist, who led Burns with 22 points, missed an outside jumper from the free throw line with 34 seconds left, giving the Pioneers a chance to win after they grabbed the rebound. The Pioneers then failed to get a shot off as they had a turnover on a traveling violation. Burns had another opportunity with a final possession, but a Feist shot bounced off the rim as the clock expired, with the score knotted at 42-42.
“It sure feels great to get fourth,” said Feist, who earned an OSAA First Team All-Tournament Award along with the Moda Health Player-of-the-Game Award. “I felt a little nervous when they (Pioneers) had their chances for a possible game winning shot. It sure feels good that we were able to pull out such a big win. I really thought that those shots I took at the end of regulation were going in.”
Each team had three possessions to try and get a possible winning basket in the first overtime, but neither team scored as it remained 42-42 at the end of the first overtime. Feist outjumped the Pioneers Jacobe DeJong in the center court tipoff to give Burns the first possession of double OT. A missed Burns shot provided the Pioneers with a chance to score with 3:34 left on the clock. The Pioneers then utilized a slowdown stall tactic while passing the ball around the perimeter of the court and patiently looking for a good shot.
Hueckman then made a key steal and he fired in a huge three-pointer, giving Burns a 45-42 lead with 1:35 remaining. The Pioneers then scored, making it 45-44 with 1:04 left.
“I had some trouble shooting earlier in the game, but I started feeling more confident later and as soon as I shot the ball, I knew that it was going in,” said Hueckman, who led Burns in rebounding with eight boards versus the Pioneers. “It was the biggest shot I’ve ever made in my basketball career. It’s a great feeling to get the fourth place trophy, which is much better than sixth. We felt confident as the season progressed that we would make it to Pendleton. We had higher expectations though, but this is great getting fourth.”
On the Hilanders ensuing possession, the Pioneers quickly fouled Burns junior guard Boyd Vinson, stopping the clock at 49.3 seconds. Vinson responded by calmly swishing two huge, high-pressure free throws, giving Burns a 47-44 lead. Tiller then grabbed a clutch rebound off a missed Pioneer shot, followed by his game-winning free throw with 18.2 seconds left.
“I just took some deep breaths to help me relax going to the line and I had confidence in myself and I knew that I could make them,” said Vinson, who scored a total of 10 points in the three state tournament games. “I just happened to be the one with the ball when they (Pioneers) fouled me. It didn’t bother me at all being in that position and they were definitely the biggest free throw shots of my career. It feels great to get fourth place, which is the second best finish ever for our team.”
For Burns, previously in the Class 3A level, it concludes a highly successful year in its first at 2A. It marked their first state playoff appearance since 2013 and their sixth postseason berth in the last eight years. The Hilanders last tournament appearance was in 2009 when they took sixth place. It marked the final game of their Burns High basketball career for seniors Feist and Jeff Davies.
March 5 Class 2A Quarterfinals
Irrigon 64, Burns 38
Burns 15 11 9 3 – 38
Irrigon 20 7 20 17 – 64
Irrigon (64) – Adrian Romero 14, Anthony Landeros 21, Fredy Vera 13, Ryan Reynolds 2, Zach Rice 7, AJ Timpy 7.
Burns (38) – Ty Hueckman 16, Trace Tiller 4, Austin Feist 10, Scott Davies 5, Boyd Vinson 3.
March 6 Consolation
Burns 50, Oakridge 38
Burns 8 13 14 15 – 50
Oakridge 10 10 16 2 – 38
Burns (50) – Feist 24, Zach McDonald 4, Hueckman 9, Tiller 4, Davies 2, Vinson 5, Taylor Klus 2.
Oakridge (38) – Gerry Snyder 19, Joel Snyder 9, Rex Gardner 2, Justin Moe 8.
March 7 Fourth Place
Burns 48, Western Mennonite 47
Burns 12 9 11 10 0 6 – 48
Western Mennonite 12 12 10 8 0 5 – 47
Burns (48) – Feist 22, Tiller 15, McDonald 3, Hueckman 5, Ty Reid 1, Vinson 2.
Western Mennonite (47) – Wyatt Roth 10, Alex Martinez 9, Colby Williams 10, Daniel Domes 6, Jacobe DeJong 2, Simeon Hess 10.