Sailor hoopsters head to state

The Mapleton basketball team departed for Crane on Tuesday, Feb. 21 for their matchup with the Crane Mustangs. The Sailors fell the next day, 64-9, to the top ranked team in the 1A classification. Photo by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News

MHS boys clinch berth, earn long road trip

Feb. 24, 2023 — For the first time in three years the Mapleton boys basketball team has earned itself a trip to the OSAA 1A State Boys Basketball Tournament.

After finishing with a 7-7 league record, the Sailors found themselves in the fourth place spot in Mountain West League standings. Four teams from the Mountain West League earn spots at state but MHS would have just a little more work to do on Feb. 16. to claim its spot. In the Mountain West, the top three teams in the league get an automatic berths while the fourth spot is determined by a league playoff. 

On Feb. 15 the league’s No. 5 team, Siletz Valley, beat No. 6 Eddyville Charter (63-31) to advance in the league playoffs in a match-up with the Sailors at Mapleton — with the winner earning that final state tournament spot.

A large crowd packed the gym at Mapleton for this Thursday evening match-up. Many fans made the trip south from Siletz to support the Warriors and they joined a vocal home crowd in creating an exciting atmosphere for high school hoops.

The first half went back and forth with neither team able to separate itself from the other. Siletz Valley led 22-20 after two periods.

The game turned into the definition of a “barn burner” in the second half.

Scoring went back and forth with the teams taking turns claiming the lead.

The score was Mapleton 27, Siletz Valley 26 right before the end of the third when sophomore Alex Burnett got tangled up with Siletz’s Josh Martin. Burnett inadvertently knocked Martin to the ground. As Burnett walked away, Martin yelled something — most likely out of frustration — and was called for a technical foul as all zeros showed on the third quarter clock.

Burnett made one of two technical free throws to give his team a 28-26 lead going into the final period.

The Sailors built their lead to 31-27 when the team’s leading scorer all season, junior Keevyn Walker, fouled out after an outstanding performance.

After the loss of Walker, momentum started to shift in the visiting team’s favor. The Warriors went on a 7-2 run and took the lead 34-33 with 2:58 left in the game.

With 2:21 remaining on the clock, another technical on Martin gave Burnett two more free throws — both of which he made to regain the lead for Mapleton, 35-34.

More gifts came the home team’s way when, with 1:56 left, an assistant coach on the Siletz Valley bench lost his cool and slammed his ballcap onto the court, resulting in yet another technical on the Warriors. Burnett made one of two technical free throws to push the score to a narrow 36-34 Sailors lead.

Mapleton had increased its lead to 39-34 when Siletz Valley had the ball with less than 40 seconds remaining and looking to make a comeback.

Sailor junior Brian Burnett intercepted a Warriors pass and headed the other direction. The ball bounced around and ended up in his brother Alex’s hands. Coach Walgamott tried to instruct his team to slow down and run the clock. Alex Burnett didn’t hear him. The point guard received a pass from Dom Stewart and, without hesitation, hit the 3-point shot.

That gave the Sailors a 42-34 lead that they would never relinquish.

“I always tell them that if you're going to shoot it, you better make it,” said Wolgamott. “I never get mad for them being aggressive. We’ve just got to be smart, and I feel like they learned that lesson and it paid off big time in the biggest game of the year.”

Wolgamott was very pleased by the patience shown by his team, especially during the fourth quarter after his team had taken the lead and was looking to run out the clock.

“It was the best they did all season long rotating that ball back and forth,” said Wolgamott. “Especially in the final two minutes, when Alex and Brian [Burnett] wasted probably over a minute themselves finding that passing angle, making good smart, crisp passes to one another. They didn’t really look for a shot because they knew the situation. They knew we were in the lead and all we had to do was value each pass within each possession and if we do that we’ll be in great shape.”

After the 43-38 win, Mapleton traveled to Junction City to face Triangle Lake on Feb. 18. The winner of the match-up between the Sailors and Lakers would decide seeding at state. The winner would be the No. 3 seed, the loser No. 4.

Mapleton kept the game close against a tough Triangle Lake team. The Lakers led by just 5 points going into the final quarter, but it appeared the Sailors ran out of gas. Triangle Lake pulled ahead on won, 56-35.

The loss gave them the Mountain West League’s No. 4 spot — a very challenging match-up to open the state tournament.

On Wednesday, Feb. 22 the 9-14 Sailors traveled more than six hours to eastern Oregon for a game against the top team in Oregon’s 1A division, the 26-1 Crane Mustangs.

Crane, champion of the High Desert League, came into the game ranked No. 1 in both the OSAA Coaches Poll and computer rankings and they are the reigning 1A State Champs after going undefeated (31-0) in 2021-22.

Crane beat Mapleton 64-9. Individual statistics were not available at press time.