Boys basketball: No. 10 Kennedy topples No. 7 Pilot Rock 52-36
After a one-year absence, the Kennedy boys basketball team is back in the quarterfinals.
The No. 10 Trojans (16-13, 7-5 Tri-River Conference) stifled the No. 7 Pilot Rock Rockets (18-7, 8-0 Columbia Basin Conference) through the first three quarters of Saturday's first round game in eastern Oregon en route to a 52-36 win.
The Rockets entered the playoffs on the heels of 11 straight victories and their first league title in years after struggling as a program over the past decade.
But the Trojans made the five-hour trip east on the wings of a battle-tested season in which the team played 11 games against teams ranked in the top 10 of the 2A and 3A Classifications.
The results paid off against Pilot Rock, as Kennedy held the Rockets to just a single field goal in the first quarter and just 4-of-23 shooting in the first half, taking a 19-9 advantage into the break.
"I thought we played really hard," Kennedy head coach Karl Schmidtman said. "Our defense definitely limited them."
Coming out of the locker rooms, the Trojans continued their assault, building their lead to 34-17 heading into the final quarter of play.
By then, the Rockets had found their legs, but the Trojans were content to trade baskets for the last eight minutes and walk away with a double-digit victory.
Sophomore Luke Hall led the Trojans with 14 points as the lone scorer in double figures for Kennedy.
"To be honest, I don't know if our offense was clicking on all cylinders, but we were able to create opportunities from our defense," Schmidtman said.
Emorej Lynk followed with nine, while Mason Boen and Rocco Carley chipped in eight each.
Carson Hall added six and Bruce Beyer had five.
The win propelled the Trojans back to the state quarterfinal tournament, where the team last qualified in 2016.
Kennedy has a difficult, albeit familiar, opponent to open the quarterfinals on Thursday: the No. 2 Columbia Christian Crusaders (27-1, 17-1 Northwest League).
The two teams met in the regular season in the final game before Christmas, where the Trojans went toe-to-toe with the then-unbeaten Crusaders, falling 47-45.
"At their place when we played them in December, we felt like we played them very well. That game went down to the wire," Schmidtman said, noting that his team committed several turnovers down the stretch that ultimately decided the outcome. "They're a good team, so they took advantage of those."
That contest remains the lowest-scoring game this season for Columbia Christian, which ranks second among 2A programs in offense this season at 68.2 points per game.
That game was also one of just four games the Crusaders have played that has been decided by single digits this year.
A victory would put the Trojans in the placement rounds for the first time since the team finished fifth in the 2008 playoffs.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. Thursday at the Pendleton Convention Center.
The 2018 2A Boys Basketball State Championship tournament will be held in Pendleton Thursday through Saturday.