Crane celebrates winning its third consecutive 1A championship Saturday night at Baker High School.
Crane celebrates winning its third consecutive 1A championship Saturday night at Baker High School.

Crane became the first team in Oregon's small-school classification to win three consecutive boys basketball state championships Saturday night.

The top-seeded Mustangs (29-1) never trailed in a 65-51 win over No. 2 Nixyaawii (23-5) in the final of the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 1A tournament at Baker High School.

“It was a different kind of pressure, but I wouldn't call it extra,” Crane coach Eric Nichols said of the season. “We talk about pressure, we take it head-on. They've played a ton of basketball and football and rodeo, all those things. They're always competing, always playing games.”

Josh Zander, a 6-foot-4 junior wing, had 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead Crane. He shot 9 of 17 from the field, including 6 of 9 from three-point range. He assumed more of the scoring load after 6-7 junior forward Cody Siegner, the team's leading scorer, got into early foul trouble.

“He played tremendously,” Nichols said of Zander. “Josh really stepped up and had a great game. He attacked the basket really well early and that opened up the perimeter for him. We say it all the time, it doesn't matter who scores, it's about Crane scoring. Tonight it was Josh.”

Siegner had 23 points and nine rebounds and senior point guard Carter Nichols added 15 points for Crane, which won its 27th consecutive game after an early loss to Union. The Mustangs won all three meetings against Nixyaawii this season, all by double digits.

Crane is 91-2 in the last three seasons, its only other loss coming against 2A Salem Academy last season. The Mustangs had not won a title until starting their run in 2022.

“Good bunch of kids. I've been super lucky as far as that goes,” Eric Nichols said. “We've had several seniors graduate who are definitely a part of this, part of building that culture.”

The Mustangs opened a 13-5 lead late in the first quarter, getting a three-pointer from Nichols and a three-point play by Zander. Nixyaawii was within 19-12 in the second quarter when Zander hit back-to-back three-pointers for a 25-12 lead.

Down 25-15 at half, the Golden Eagles pulled within six points on three occasions in the third quarter, the final time when a layup by junior Symon Picard cut the lead to 34-28 with 3:31 left in the quarter.

But Zander connected on two three-pointers to make it 40-28. Another triple by Zander and a jumper by Siegner extended the lead to 52-36 with 6:51 left in the game.

Picard scored 21 points for Nixyaawii, making three three-pointers. Senior Baron Moses added 13 points and six rebounds for the Golden Eagles.

It was the third final for Nixyaawii in the last six seasons. The Golden Eagles won the state title in 2019 and finished first in the culminating week state tournament in 2021.