Diggs Sladek (23) and Gavin Hall (32) lead Western Christian's post-game celebration
Diggs Sladek (23) and Gavin Hall (32) lead Western Christian's post-game celebration

PENDLETON – It started innocently enough, with two free throws from Western Christian junior Caleb Halgren.

It did not end until the Pioneers were sprinting into the locker room at halftime, ahead of undefeated Portland Christian, 36-13, and on their way to a 62-36 runaway win Saturday evening in the championship game at the 2024 OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union 2A Boys Basketball State Championships in Pendleton.

Those first-quarter points, which made it 15-12 Western, snapped a three-minute scoring drought for the Pioneers.

The lid on the basket remained closed for Portland Christian, however, for an additional 12 minutes.

During that stretch, Western Christian outscored Portland Christian, 23-1, in a devastating display of dominance that effectively ended the game before the first possession of the second half.

Unless you were a Portland Christian fan, the run was mesmerizing to watch. It started with defense. The Pioneers using their swift guards to exert immense pressure on the perimeter and their athleticism in the paint to contest and thwart any scoring attempts at the rim.

The defense begat offense, with Western scoring inside with Hallgren and Parker Crowe; outside, with Gavin Hall and Lucas Zook; and in transition, with Kuga Matsumoto.

The Pioneers could do no wrong. Not from their starters. And not from their reserves. Every button head coach Gary Hull pushed was the right one.

“We always talk about rebounds, execution, playing together,” Hull noted. “We did that really, really well, especially in that second quarter. It was a perfect quarter. Portland Christian is a very good ball club but I was so proud of our guys the way we came out. It was really special.”

The win gave Western Christian (30-1) its fourth state title all time and its second in three years. The players said that last year’s championship game loss, to Salem Academy, provided all the motivation they needed, as a young team, to get back to the final and finish the job in 2024.

“It motivated us tremendously,” said Hall. “We all had that terrible feeling in our stomach. It just pushed us harder in the offseason to get back here again.”

 “It means everything,” Matsumoto added. “After we got second last year, we worked hard for 365 days for this. We were ready.”

“The kids remember last year really well,” Hull said. “We talked about the memories of what finishing second felt like. We wanted to do everything possible to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.”

The game began with Hall, the Tri-River Conference MVP, swishing a wing three to put Western Christian on top almost immediately after the opening tip. Portland Christian (28-1) countered with jet quick junior guard Sam Fundak, who was inserted into the starting lineup to try to match Western Christian’s athletic guard play; slashing to the goal for two.

The game continued, end-to-end, at a frenetic pace, for the first several minutes. Fundak scored twice more on determined drives and also dished to Graham Calhoun for a corner three. He gave Portland Christian the kind of spark coach Erik Lyslo hoped he would. The Royals led three times in that first quarter, the last at 8-6 after two Colby Getting free throws.

Western Christian took the lead for good at 9-8, when Zook swished a corner three over the challenge of the 6-9 Getting. A Matsumoto steal near half court and finish, followed by a Hall bucket inside, extended Western Christian’s advantage to 13-8 before Fundak’s back-to-back layups brought the game to that 13-12 inflection point.

For three minutes, neither team scored. Missed shots and turnovers reigned. During this stretch, a second foul sent talented Western Christian big man Diggs Sladek to the bench. The game was waiting for one team to seize control of it.

Enter Halgren, a 6-1 junior and part of a deep Western Christian bench. Within one minute of his coming onto the floor, he delivered two energizing blocked shots on one end, and was fouled at the rim on the other, rewarded with the ball and two free throws after a sprint down the court. Those points, and the three that followed from Zook in the quarter’s closing seconds, made it 18-12 Western after one and gave the Pioneers tremendous momentum heading into the next, fateful eight minutes.

The second quarter began with Hall, Matsumoto and Halgren scoring in close for Western and turnovers killing Portland Christian.

“We talked about their transition…we kept turning the ball over,” Lyslo said. “When you do that it plays right into their up and down style of play. They go on these flurries.”

This particularly flurry – more like a blizzard, actually – continued with a Hall 3-ball, a Zook steal and score, ANOTHER Hallgren blocked shot, ANOTHER corner three from Zook and a bucket in the key from Crowe to close the half.

“We were all fired up,” Hall said. “Basketball is a game of runs and we were trying to keep it going for as long as we could.”

The halftime stats told the tale. Western Christian shot 58 percent from the field, including 55 percent from beyond the arc; to just 17 percent for Portland Christian. Every Pioneer who attempted more than one shot converted at better than a 50 percent clip. No Portland Christian player shot better than 33 percent. Western Christian had seven assisted baskets to just one for Portland Christian.

“The kids played a great first half,” Hull said. “The second quarter was phenomenal, holding them to one point. We did a really good job of rebounding, holding them to one and done.”

Western Christian’s challenge after halftime was trying to play like it didn’t have a near-insurmountable lead.

“When the run was over we had to be thinking it’s 0-0 and just stay on the gas,” Hall said.

 “We tried to focus on the game,” Matsumoto explained. “Though we had super exciting moments, we tried to finish the game strong.”

Portland Christian started the third quarter on the right foot, as Fundak, who had a game-high 17 points; hit a three from the top of the key. The Royals, however, did not score again for another three minutes. Sladek, who was not part of the incredible second-quarter run, did dirty work in deep for Western Christian, as did Caleb Brown; and Matsumoto hit two three pointers for the Pioneers, who extended their advantage to 32 points, 48-16, with just over three minutes gone by in the quarter.

All that remained for Western Christian over the last 13 minutes was the anticipation and the coronation.

Matsumoto, an international student and the only senior on Western Christian’s team, was named Moda Health Player of the Game after scoring a team-high 15 points, with three steals, two assists and zero turnovers. Three other Pioneers scored in double figures: Hall had 14, plus nine rebounds; Zook had 13 on 5-of-8 shooting; and Sladek scored 11 with eight rebounds. Halgren scored four points and had a team-high four blocked shots.

Fundak had the only notable game for Portland Christian, which played with freshman point guard Keylon Kittleson hobbled with a lower leg injury. The Royals honored injured sophomore point guard Ethan Lamer by getting him on the floor for a minute late in the game.

Lyslo had his young team, with no seniors, watch Western Christian cut down the net afterwards.

“I’m making them watch this right now because I want them to see what this feels like and remember what it feels like, because we’ll be back,” Lyslo said. “That’s a really good basketball team over there. I have a super young team here. We’ll be back.”

Western Christian also is very young, with Katsumoto the only senior on a roster that goes at least eight deep.

Run it back?

In the boys 3rd/5th game…

No. 7 Mannahouse Acad., Portland 56, No. 4 Oakland 43 – Oakland won the first quarter of Saturday afternoon’s third-place game with Mannahouse Academy. The Lions, however, owned the final 24 minutes in the decisive win.

Coltyn Jacobs scored eight early points to give Oakland a first quarter jolt. Only a deep three from Austin Snyder prevented the Oakers from taking a double-digit lead into the second.

The game turned on a five-point sequence in the last minute of the second quarter. Moda Health Player of the Game Jadon Bjornsgard, one of only two seniors on the Mannahouse squad; hit one of his four three pointers to give the Lions their first lead of the game at 23-22. MCA added on when Joshua Louska, a 6-9 junior post, came up with one of his five blocks and fed the ball ahead to a streaking Snyder for an uncontested lay-up.

Mannahouse got scoreboard separation in the third quarter and led by 14 late, sparked by a nice spurt from Caleb Dickinson. Oakland’s leading scorer, Joseph Fusco, scored his first basket of the game from deep at the buzzer to keep the game interesting.

The interest faded, however, when Mannahouse scored the first seven points of the final period to make its lead insurmountable.

Snyder and Bjornsgard combined for 30 points, with seven triples, in the Lion win. Louska had 10 points, 11 rebounds and those five big blocks.

Gabe Williamson, a football star, scored 11 points inside to lead Oakland’s scorers. Jacobs and Gavyn Woody scored nine apiece. Fucso was limited to five points on 2-of-13 shooting.

In the boys 4th/6th game…

No. 2 Regis 72, No. 5 East Linn Christian Acad. 59 – ELCA rallied from a 10-point deficit after the first quarter to tie the game at halftime, but the turnover-prone Eagles could not keep up with the Rams in the second half. Regis outscored East Linn by six in the third quarter and led by eight with three minutes to go before a final flurry extended the Rams’ lead to 17 points. Soon after, both sides cleared their benches.

Isaiah Koehnke scored 25 points and dished out seven assists to pace Regis, whose only loss in the tournament came to Mannahouse Academy by a single point in the quarterfinals. Julius Pokorny, one of three seniors on the roster, added 19 points. Fellow senior Rylan Bischoff, the Moda Health Player of the Game, finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

Blake Knurowski scored 21 points to pace ELCA. The junior was brilliant in the tournament, leading the Eagles in scoring with 20+ in every game. Elliot Nofziger, one of four seniors, added nine points and seven rebounds, but fouled out with 5:32 remaining in the game, when the Eagles trailed only by 10.

Team Sportsmanship Award: Oakland

All-Tournament Second Team





Cohen Haller, Willamina

All-Tournament First Team





Nolan Schweiss, Mannahouse