The Philomath High boys basketball team didn’t attract a whole lot of attention in the preseason heading into this season. So when the Warriors entered the state playoffs as the No. 2 overall seed after winning the Oregon West Conference title and headed to the state tournament with a 20-4 record, you could say the program exceeded expectations.
The starting lineup featured an interesting mix of experience and talent that meshed well together. No one player really stood out as a superstar with the Warriors burning the opponent on a Tuesday with Michael Lundy sprinting to transition layups and then on a Friday with point guard Ben Reams setting up Toby Stueve’s drives in the lane.
Throw in Ty May, the first freshman to see time as a starter since Ben DeSaulnier’s days, and Philomath had options when it comes to which offensive weapon to use. The most lethal weapon of all was the Warriors’ defense, which didn’t give the competition much room to do much on the floor.
The balanced offensive attack and strong defensive presence might be one factor in Philomath having just one player on the Oregon West’s first team. Another factor would simply be the strength of the league this past season with several high-caliber players to consider for postseason honors.
Lundy, a 6-foot-1 junior, earned a spot on the all-OWC squad’s first team.
“He did a nice job maturing as a young man and really taking his game up a level,” Ecker said. “We had some good talks and he was able to really do a nice job this year. I’m really proud of him.”
May, a 6-6 freshman post, was included on the second team.
“You don’t seen that very often with a freshman on second team or any kind of all-league status,” Ecker said. “He’s still a very young man and I think there’s a ton of potential in him. I really think he’s going to be a good one down the road.”
Philomath also had two players recognized as honorable mention picks — Stueve and Reams, both seniors.
Stueve wrapped up an impressive three-year run as a PHS starter.
“He’s going to be sorely missed — just the things that he did in his three years of starting were just amazing,” Ecker said. “Whether it was being defensive end, making it to practice every day, he was kind of our ironman guy.”
Reams directed traffic from the point guard position and Ecker described him as a player that had the potential to take control of a game.
“At times, he was a man among boys out there,” Ecker said. “At time he would take it to the rack and was really unstoppable and I wish it was more consistent. He was good to have as a point guard and we felt comfortable with the ball in his hands.”
Ecker, who earned coach of the year honors, agreed that his team wasn’t considered the favorite to win the title heading in, but said the roster grew significantly in a very important area — confidence.
“It was cool just to see them believe in themselves and believe they could win and they needed that,” Ecker said. “They needed some confidence and belief coming off a rough season the year before. I was proud of them.”
The Warriors had just as good of a shot as anybody to bring home a state championship from Forest Grove before it was canceled.
“Gosh darn it, we had a legitimate shot, I felt really comfortable of us getting into the semifinals,” Ecker said. “And then you never know what can happen. That’s why they play the games.”
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