Our process for projecting how things will shake out in various sports is complex and varies by season and year, and it is ultimately scrutinized internally and refined to produce better results next time around. This process churns out, on balance, more accurate predictions than faulty ones. Usually, we keep this hand wringing in-house, but in the spirit of transparency and content generation, we bring it to the forefront once a year. Here, we will be highlighting our hits and acknowledging our, at times, egregious whiffs:
Biggest Miss: Junction City (Runner Up: Siuslaw)
We did not do a preseason breakdown for basketball, but we did put together preseason top-10s. Junction City started in our eyes in the #9 spot in 4A, a far cry from their eventual second place finish. We underestimated the Tigers, in part, because we flat out did not think their ceiling was at a championship level. It was a common refrain from us to say that “Junction City is really consistent–they have a really, really high floor–but their ceiling is well defined.” What we did not understand was the depth of defensive talent Junction City boasted and just how successful their deliberate pace would be come playoff time. Going from #9 in the preseason to #2 at the finish line is hard to beat in terms of our misses in 4A.
Biggest Hit: Cascade (Runner Up: Seaside)
#2 in the preseason to #1 at the finish line, there is nobody we were more right about than Cascade. Though the Marshfield v Cascade rematch never materialized in the postseason, the Cougar championship run was just as captivating as hyped up to be. Taking down 6A power Lincoln in the preseason and running roughshod over virtually everyone at the 4A level, employing one of the more stifling defenses in small school basketball, there was never doubt about Cascade being a contender. Where Marshfield had explosiveness and Junction City had consistency, Cascade had just the right amount of both, and they walked away champions because of it.
Biggest Miss: Oregon Episcopal (Runner Up: Rainier)
Big whiff on OES. We did not even throw them into the considered category in the preseason rankings, and they ended up making Coos Bay. A very different team from their title squad in 2020, this Aardvark team was fun to watch when hitting from behind the arc. At times stifling defense combined with high basketball IQ and solid shooting helped a team without an A-tier player make the state tournament and even compete in the consolation semifinals. This team, possibly more so than the title team in 2020, endeared us to coach Ed Kirk and put on display the kind of program he has put together there. OES is not far from being a long-term contender, and this team showed that.
Biggest Hit: Contenders Column
Cascade Christian, Westside, De La Salle, and Dayton as a top-four in the preseason was pretty much spot on. Those four ended up all making the semifinals, and really only Dayton faced a significant challenge in doing so. This was always going to be the top tier of 3A basketball; what the final order would be was the only question. Austin Maurer and Cody Reece, Jaymeson Ye, and Mathias Billings and TJ Latu were easily selectable first-team all-state players in the preseason, and they ended up being so at the conclusion of the state tournament. Really, there was not a whole lot of turbulence at the top of 3A basketball. This was not really hard to see coming, so it maybe was not a home run on our part here, but it certainly was a double.
Biggest Miss: Kennedy (Runner Up: Oakland)
We were throwing darts in the dark for 2A basketball in the preseason, full stop. Outside of the top-three, we were flying blind. To not have Kennedy in the top-10 at all and then to have them end up in the top-5 the whole season, and arguably a win over Western Christian in the quarterfinals away from winning the title, is an egregious miss on our part, one that just flat out should not happen. Looking back, there was not any reason for us to miss Kennedy, really. There is no excuse. Solid talent, solid coaching, solid program, momentum from the fall–they had everything you could want. We just totally did not do our homework here. Kennedy basketball and Lakeview football, of all sports in either gender, are by far our biggest misses ever. Which one is worse is up for debate.
Biggest Hit: Top-Three
The top of the pyramid, as in 3A, was fairly predictable. Western, Salem Academy, and Knappa all checked off all the boxes. Talent, coaching, program stability, momentum, etc. What the final order would be was a mystery, but seeing as Knappa was presumed to have the best player of the three–Logan Morrill–we gave them the nod at #1. Ultimately the Loggers would lose in the semis to Salem Academy, but this was a well-defined top tier from the start and the title was almost certain to end up in the hands of one of these three–with the later exception of Kennedy being added and Jefferson having an outside shot if healthy. Similar to 3A, there probably was not a home run here, but there was definitely a double.
The misses were… big. Lesson one: stop doubting Junction City, no matter the circumstance. Lesson two: stop doubting Oregon Episcopal, no matter the circumstance. Lesson three: stop trying to predict 2A entirely–it’s a fools bargain to even attempt it.