The Santiam Christian boys basketball team enters the quarterfinal round of the OSAA 3A state tournament sporting the No. 2 seed and is looking to make a push for the state championship.
The Eagles (23-3), runners-up in the Mountain Valley Conference, will be headed to Oregon's Bay Area for a matchup with 10th-seeded Amity (17-8) at North Bend High at 8:15 p.m. Thursday.
The Eagles are coming off a 65-55 win over Salem Academy in the first round. Amity defeated Horizon Christian 67-60.
SC head coach Dennis McLain knows that despite being the 10th seed, Amity will present challenges across the board.
“We have a height advantage, but they have really good shooters,” McLain said. “Most of what Amity does goes through sophomore Josh Wart, who does everything for them.”
One of the unique aspects for Santiam Christian this season has been the storyline of brothers Zach and Josh Baugher.
Zach Baugher, a senior, lauded the work ethic of younger brother Josh who has been able to play varsity with Zach this season and last.
“Not many people have a younger brother that is good enough to play varsity for a year, let alone two years, and that’s something that means a lot to me,” Zach Baugher said. “We grew up competing against each other so much and now to have the chance to compete with him is really special.”
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Zach, who has signed with Western Oregon, will not play this week as he continues his recovery from a broken wrist sustained in a late-December game.
Josh, a sophomore, has really looked up to Zach during their time together on the squad.
“It’s really special… I look up to him so much,” Josh Baugher said. “Every time I come on the bench, he gives me words of advice. Not a lot of guys get the opportunity to play with their brother and have that connection so it’s really special.”
Following the first-round win over Salem Academy, confidence is high for the Eagles heading into the matchup with Amity.
“We’re feeling good about Amity… It’s a winnable game for us,” Josh Baugher said. “We’ve got to slow (Josh) Wart, play good defense, and push the ball. If we do that, we’ll be fine. Our goal is to win state and leave nothing on the table.”
Added Zach Baugher: “Amity has some dudes… Josh Wart is a really good player for a sophomore and is going to be really tough for us to stop. I think we’ve got the size and ability to at least limit him.”
With the Eagles set to head to the tournament, McLain feels that as long as the team plays the way they’re capable of and hits shots, they’ll be in a good position to advance to the semifinals.
“We like where we’re at right now,” McLain said. “We felt really good against Salem Academy and hopefully since we’ve got players who have been there before, we won’t feel too many nerves going to state. If we can execute and hit some shots, we’ll be in good shape.”