Wilsonville grads help Oregon Tech reach NAIA title game
Tyler Hieb was first recruited by Oregon Tech during his junior year at Wilsonville High School.
He remembers the pitch from Justin Parnell, then an assistant coach on the men's basketball team.
"Oregon Tech had won so many national championships and he wanted to bring the program back," recalls Hieb, a 2016 Wilsonville graduate now entering his senior year at Oregon Tech. "When we got there that was the whole thing to try to turn the culture around back to what it used to be."
In 45 seasons, Oregon Tech coach Dany Miles had won more than a 1,000 games and led the Hustin' Owls to three NAIA Division II national championships in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
But Oregon Tech had failed to qualify for the NAIA tournament in Miles' last four seasons when Parnell, a former Tech player, took over the program after Miles retired in 2016.
Hieb was a member of Parnell's first recruiting class.
Wilsonville's Tanner Karp was also a freshman at Oregon Tech when he asked Hieb if the Owls needed a team manager.
"I'm a big basketball fan and I was bored a lot at school," says Karp, who was thinking about transferring before he joined the basketball team.
Karp began by running the clock at practice and Tweeting during games. He is now in control of social media and graphics for the entire Oregon Tech athletic department. He changed his major from engineering to marketing.
After winning back-to-back Class 5A basketball state championships at Wilsonville, Harrison Steiger joined the Owls the following season.
"I knew I wanted to play a sport in college and it was a good fit for me athletically and academically, and having them (Hieb and Karp) there didn't hurt at all," Steiger says. "Being at Wilsonville, I was really lucky. In football we were always competing for a state championship. In basketball we obviously had a lot of success. I enjoy winning. During recruiting that was big because I knew Oregon Tech was going to be a winning program. Coach Parnell recruits a lot of guys from winning programs. We have a lot of guys that love to win and know how to win and I think that really helps."
In February, Oregon Tech won its first outright Cascade Collegiate Conference regular season championship since 2011. Hieb had a team-high seven rebounds in the 75-72 clinching victory against College of Idaho.
The Owls then won their first NAIA tournament game since 2012, defeating the University of Antelope Valley 75-65 on March 6 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"We thought this year was the year to break out," Hieb says. "Our mindset going into it (NAIA tournament) was we're going to win the first round and then from there we'll see because we've never been that far. We got on a roll."
Oregon Tech defeated Indiana University Kokomo in the second round to set up a matchup against Indiana Wesleyan, the No. 1 overall seed and defending national champions, in the quarterfinals.
Steiger scored 13 points as the Owls upset Indiana Wesleyan 107-93 to reach the final four.
"We really pushed the pace and a lot of teams around the country weren't ready for that," Steiger says.
Playing uptempo was also new to Steiger and Hieb before they arrived to Oregon Tech. Wilsonville won the 2016 state title 47-31 and the 2017 championship 51-43.
"It's completing opposite to what we were doing at Wilsonville," Hieb says. "Wilsonville is a slow it down, defensive system and then you get to Oregon Tech and you have to completely change the style of basketball that you play. It was pretty interesting to see that come together. I think both styles work. They're just different approaches, obliviously."
Hieb started 34 of 35 games during his junior year, making 48 3-pointers. He also scored the 1,000th point of his career on Feb. 8 against Northwest Christian.
"With such a storied program like Oregon Tech, it's pretty cool to be up there with some of those guys who really built the program up to what it is today," Hieb says.
While Hieb, who also won a javelin state title his senior year of high school, and Steiger were used to celebrating big victories, the experience was new for Karp, who traveled with the team and downloaded film for coaches during the NAIA tournament.
"Because I didn't play sports at a high level it's cool to get in the locker room after a big win like Indiana Wesleyan and be a part of the celebration, which is something I never really got to do," Karp says.
The Owls defeated league rival College of Idaho on March 11 to advance to the NAIA championship game against Spring Arbor. But Oregon Tech could not bring home the program's fourth national title, falling to the Cougars 82-76 on March 12.
"Going into the national championship I think we were very confident we were going to win and then we just had one of those game where you're just off a little bit," Hieb says. "They were a really solid team and they really took us out of our style of play. They slowed the game down a lot, which we hadn't seen in the tournament yet. That was one of the big reasons that I think led to us losing."
To celebrate the team's success, Oregon Tech is holding a basketball bash on Aug. 25 at 1:30 p.m at the Holiday Inn in Wilsonville.
"It's been one of the dreams for all of us, obliviously, to play for the national championship," says Hieb, who shares a home in Klamath Falls with Steiger, Karp and Oregon Tech teammate Mitchell Fink. "Doing it with people that you've known for so long and people that you've grown up with was a really, really cool experience and made it that much more special."
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