PENDLETON – The Nixyaawii gym was packed to the gills as the school hosted Ione-Arlington for the 2nd round of the OSAA 1A State Basketball Tournament on Saturday, February 26th.
Starting with the girls game, the first quarter was fast paced and both teams played competitive ball. Players dove for loose balls and hit tough shots.
At the end of the first quarter, Ione-Arlington led 15-14.
But the Nixyaawii Eagles came out in the second quarter and played hard, aggressive basketball.
Nixyaawii junior point-guard Sophie Bronson had 8 of her game-high 20 points in the second quarter. The Cardinals, meanwhile, went on a dry spell and failed to score in the second period. The drought continued into the third quarter, where Ione-Arlington scored just two points.
Nixyaawii went on to win 53-28 and will play Country Christian on March 3rd in Baker City.
Cardinals Head Coach Nathan Heideman said that while it was a tough loss, he was proud of the team. “I’m proud of this bunch,” Coach Heideman said. “They played good.”
In boys play, both teams looked evenly matched and first quarter play was frenetic.
Both teams pushed the ball and applied pressure. Nixyaawii played in man while the Cardinals utilized a 2-3 zone.
Towards the end of the first quarter, the Eagles began to convert points in transition. Cardinals Coach Dennis Stefani called a quick timeout just as the second quarter began to stop the bleeding. But Nixyaawi continued to beat the Cardinals back and extended their lead at the half to 14, leading 39-25.
But the Cardinals rallied in the third quarter to cut the lead to 7 points – 49-42. The Cardinals got strong defensive play from Bryce and Taylor Rollins and offensive play from Ione senior Gary Walls, Oliver Giefing and Carson Eynetich, who had 10 of his game-high 25 points in the third.
But Nixyaawii was too much in the fourth. Sophomore Baron Moses seemed to find every crease and exploited the Cardinals defense, scoring six of his team-high 23 points. Nixyaawii junior point-guard Dylan Abrahamson played strong defense and had 21 points.
Ione-Arlington Coach Dennis Stefani said the slow start hurt the team’s chances down the stretch.
“Hard to climb that mountain once getting down by as much as we did,” Coach Stefani said. The Ione-Arlington coach praised Nixyaawii and said they will do well in Baker City. “They play with no fear,” Stefani said.
Nixyaawii will play Powder Valley on March 2nd in Baker City.