Crane all-state junior Cody Siegner is averaging 20.0 points and 9.7 rebounds this season. (Photo by Debbie Raney)
Crane all-state junior Cody Siegner is averaging 20.0 points and 9.7 rebounds this season. (Photo by Debbie Raney)

With a chance to become the first Oregon boys basketball team to three-peat in the small-school classification, top-seeded Crane will embrace the pressure this week in the OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union 1A tournament in Baker City.

Mustangs coach Eric Nichols turned philosophical when addressing his players about the opportunity that lies before them.

“Pressure is a privilege,” Nichols said he told them, echoing the words of former women's tennis great Billie Jean King. “Not everybody gets to have pressure.”

Still, the Mustangs know what happened the last two seasons isn't going to count on the scoreboard this week.

“We addressed it from the get-go,” Nichols said. “We let them know, 'Hey, it's a different group. This is a new year.' We can attach it and go 1-2-3, but we're not there yet.”

Crane (26-1) should have little trouble being focused for its quarterfinal Wednesday afternoon against No. 8 Union (22-7). The Bobcats not only handed the Mustangs their only defeat this season, but they are the only 1A team to beat them in the last three seasons. Crane is 87-2 during that span, the other loss coming against 2A Salem Academy last season.

The 58-46 loss at Union in the 1A Preview Tournament on Dec. 7 was Crane's third game of the season and came 12 days after many of the Mustangs played in the 1A-8 football final, which they lost to Lost River.

“It probably was a contributing factor,” Nichols said. “We didn't have our lungs or legs yet. We didn't shoot all that well. But no excuses from us. They were the better team that night.

“It was definitely a refocusing point. Our defense has gotten quite a bit better. The effort and intensity was there, but we had too many turnovers and we didn't put the ball in the cup. It was a bit of a perfect storm. We're excited to play them again.”

Crane brought back three starters from last season, including two first-team all-state selections in 6-foot-7 junior forward Cody Siegner (20.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 67-percent field-goal shooting) and 5-10 senior point guard Carter Nichols (15.0 points, 6.0 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.5 steals). The other returning starter is 6-4 junior wing Josh Zander (12.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.8 steals).

Siegner, a standout football player, is a physical force. He has added muscle from last season and has shown improved athleticism, which Eric Nichols believes is a benefit from Siegner spending more time on the court last summer.

“A lot of times Cody's been on a horse or tractor during the summer,” Eric Nichols said. “He's running the floor quite a bit better, and the maturity has helped him strength-wise. And his jump shot has developed. He's shooting some threes and that's been helpful for us.”

Crane graduated two of its more rugged players in forwards Taylor Krueger and Jared Zander, both starters, but the physical growth of the returning players has helped compensate for the loss. Junior wing Joah Friedrichsen (6-1) and junior guard Ross Clark (5-9) have filled those starting spots.

Eric Nichols said his players' competitive experience shows up in big moments.

“They've played a lot of basketball and they've played a lot of football,” he said. “Whether it's rodeo or whatever, they've got some experience.”

Crane's boys and girls teams – both No. 1 seeds – have a chance to win double titles for the second time in three seasons. After accomplishing the feat in 2022, they nearly did it again last year but the girls finished as runners-up.

How is Crane doing it?

“Just super athletic kids that have worked hard and come together,” Eric Nichols said.

Boys quarterfinals, Wednesday, Baker HS

No. 8 Union (22-7) vs. No. 1 Crane (26-1), 1:30 p.m.: Crane had not won a title until going back-to-back the last two seasons. Since the loss to Union, the Mustangs' closest games came against bigger schools. They beat 3A Amity 55-50, 3A Dayton 59-56 and 2A Stanfield 58-56. They are 5-0 against the other state-tournament teams, topping Trinity Lutheran 63-53 and 65-52, Nixyaawii 70-60 and 64-51 and Lost River 66-48. Union, a quarterfinalist last year, is in the final eight in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. The Bobcats also have posted their first back-to-back 20-win seasons. They are led by 6-4 senior Tee Ledbetter (20.0 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 blocks) and 6-3 junior Chase Koshinsky (15.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists). In the win over Crane, Koshinsky had 25 points and 10 rebounds, making 5 of 7 from three-point range.

No. 12 Crosshill Christian (21-6) vs. No. 4 Trinity Lutheran 23-4), 3:15 p.m.: Crosshill Christian, last year's runner-up, has reached the final four in three of the last four seasons, but has yet to win a title. The Eagles' earned their spot in the tournament with an 87-83 overtime win at No. 5 Dufur, getting 32 points from senior guard Ben Hemelstrand and 27 points from senior guard Kyler Hemelstrand. Ben (15.2 points), Kyler (8.7 points) and senior wing Zach Wilson (10.5 points) made first-team all-league. Trinity Lutheran, second place in 2019, also is seeking its first championship. The Saints have the Mountain Valley League player of the year in 6-4 junior Andrew Imhoff (18.4 points, 7.9 rebounds), the grandson of former NBA player Darrall Imhoff. Jack Foley (13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.3 steals), a 6-4 junior guard who was a standout receiver for Mountain View's 5A runner-up football team, also made the first team. Freshman guard Chimi Gilbert (12.4 points) has provided quality minutes.

No. 19 Elkton (19-6) vs. No. 11 North Douglas (23-5), 6:30 p.m.: The Skyline League rivals meet for the third time this season. Elkton, unbeaten in league, won at North Douglas 78-73 on Jan. 23, but the Warriors beat the Elks 68-48 in the league playoffs Feb. 17. The schools will compete together on a baseball co-op team, which begins practice Monday. Elkton, the lowest seed in the field, knocked off No. 14 Crosspoint Christian and No. 3 Open Door Christian in the playoffs. The Elks are making their first tournament appearance since a three-year run from 2011 to 2013. They have won seven titles (the last in 1997), tied for the second-most in state history behind Jefferson (nine). They feature 6-3 junior guard Bodee Block (16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds) and 6-6 senior post Cael Boe (13.8 points, 11.3 rebounds). North Douglas is in the final eight for the third year in a row despite graduating all of its starters from last year's semifinal team, including the 1A player of the year in Ray Gerrard. Junior guard Jayden Montgomery (19.8 points, 4.2 steals) and sophomore wing Hunter Vaughn (16.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.3 steals, 3.0 blocks) lead the way.

No. 7 Lost River (23-4) vs. No. 2 Nixyaawii (21-4), 8:15 p.m.: Lost River has eight players from the repeat 1A-8 football champion. The Raiders are in the state tournament for the first time since making the 2A quarterfinals in 2019. They lost twice to Trinity Lutheran and once to Crane and North Douglas. Senior Connor Dunlea (14.5 points, 4.7 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 2.9 steals) was the football state offensive player of the year as a running back, and senior Chase McAuliffe (14.0 points, 7.8 rebounds) was first-team at quarterback. The Raiders also have junior Tate Freeman (14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds). Lost River has appeared in one final, losing in the 2A championship game in 1998. Nixyaawii, the champion in 2019 and 2021, is in the quarterfinals for the seventh year in a row and ninth time in 10 seasons. The Golden Eagles lost in the quarterfinals the last two seasons. They have the Old Oregon League player of the year in senior Baron Moses (21.8 points, 7.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.8 steals) and two other first-team all-league selections in juniors Symon Picard (16.5 points, 2.9 assists, 3.3 steals) and Rylen Bronson (10.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists). Two of their losses were to Crane, 70-60 and 64-51.

Girls quarterfinals, Thursday, Baker HS

No. 9 Imbler (20-7) vs. No. 1 Crane (27-0), 1:30 p.m.: Crane's bid for a fourth consecutive title was thwarted last season by a 35-33 loss to Damascus Christian in the final. The Mustangs are 127-3 in the last five seasons, all the losses coming against Damascus Christian, which did not field a team this season. Crane is winning by an average of 42.0 points this season, its closest game a 69-56 win over North Douglas. Senior guard Kortney Doman (5-10), the 1A player of the year last season and co-player of the year as a sophomore, is averaging 15.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.7 steals. Her mother, former BYU point guard Tomika Doman, replaced Stub Travis (570 wins in 28 seasons) as coach this season. Kaitlyn Siegner (21.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.9 steals), a 5-10 forward, and Taya Nelson (12.4 points) are among six freshmen on the roster. Crane beat Imbler 66-27 on Dec. 29. The Panthers last appeared in the quarterfinals in 2A in 2017. They won titles in 1990 and 2010. They have the Old Oregon League co-player of the year in 5-10 junior wing Rachael Stirewalt (14.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 5.0 steals, 3.0 assists). Junior guard Paiten Braseth (8.0 points) also was first-team all-league.

No. 5 St. Paul (21-6) vs. No. 4 Country Christian (21-7), 3:15 p.m.: The teams slugged it out in a nonleague game Jan. 18, with Country Christian prevailing at home 28-23. Country Christian, the champion in 2016 and 2018, is in the final eight for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Coach Russ Halverson is 386-191 in 21 seasons. The Cougars have four starters back from last year's quarterfinal team, but lost Annie Bafford, who averaged 19.0 points and 18.0 rebounds. Senior post Lilly Garfield (5-10), first-team all-league, is averaging 14.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. Senior guard Elise Doyle (5.0 steals) was the league's defensive player of the year. St. Paul, the champion in 2019 and runner-up in 2020, lost in the quarterfinals last year. The Buckaroos feature the Casco League MVP in junior post Audra Rose (16.8 points, 8.7 rebounds). Senior guard Gracie Koch (8.8 points, 4.5 assists) was first-team all-league and junior forward Josey Edwards was the Casco defensive player of the year.

No. 14 Echo (20-8) vs. No. 6 Powder Valley (21-6), 6:30 p.m.: The teams finished tied for first place with Union in the Old Oregon League. They did not meet in league play, but Powder Valley edged Echo 55-51 in the district tournament. Echo advanced to the quarterfinals by stopping No. 3 Jordan Valley 51-44. The Cougars have three first-team all-league players in seniors Navaeh Thew (12.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.0 steals) and Mayela De La Fuente (10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds) and sophomore Kenzie Hendrix (8.0 points). Echo's only title came in 1981. Powder Valley senior Jodi Bingham (10.0 points) was the Old Oregon co-player of the year and sophomore Kellee Dixon (10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds) was voted to the first team. The Badgers are on a 13-game winning streak since dropping four of five at midseason. They have six seniors in their rotation. Powder Valley, which won its only title in 2006, was runner-up in 2019.

No. 7 North Clackamas Christian (22-4) vs. No. 2 North Douglas (25-3), 8:15 p.m.: North Douglas' only loss to a 1A team this season was to Crane, a 69-56 defeat that is the closest any team has come to the Mustangs this season. Warriors junior guard Brooklyn Cyr (5-3) leads the team in points (16.4), assists (5.7) and steals (4.5). Brook McHaffie, a four-year starter, averages 11.3 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds. North Douglas survived a scare in the round of 16 by holding off No. 18 Crosshill Christian 53-48. The Warriors have made it to one final, losing to Country Christian in 2016. North Clackamas Christian is in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1999. The Saints improved from 15-10 last season. Freshman Keslynn Turner, a first-team pick in The Valley 10 League, averaged 16.0 points, 4.0 steals and 3.0 assists. Freshman Kaylee Turner is putting up 11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 4.0 assists. Senior Allison Van Sickle is a big defensive presence.