The Prairie City Panther boys basketball team finished in fifth place at the 1A Boys Basketball State Championship in Baker City on Saturday, falling 56-53 to the Days Creek Wolves.
Panther head coach Sam Workman said both teams battled hard in their final game.
“I was excited with the way they played their last game of the season and how they fought,” he said of his team, adding they all performed well.
Workman said his five graduating seniors “are leaving tough shoes to fill.”
Ending their high school basketball career are Levi Burke, Syd Holman, Jonathan Lawrence, Brett Copenhaver and Lane Williams.
“Each team is different, and we’ll have different game plans for next year,” Workman said.
He said the upperclassmen performed well all year, and his younger athletes stepped up and played hard when they had the chance.
Jojari Field, a sophomore, was a starter this season and last, when the Panthers placed second at state.
“I’m extremely proud of every single one of the players this year,” Field said. “We didn’t get the outcome we expected, but it was still pretty good.”
Field said he’s proud that he and his teammates and coaches made the return to state.
“I’m going to miss playing with all the seniors, but I can’t wait until next year, because I’m pretty sure we can do great things again,” he said.
Prairie City finished third in the 1A-8 High Desert League standings but won the championship title at the District 8 tournament on Feb. 16 in John Day.
Workman said his returning starters will bring talent to next year’s team.
“Jojari shoots well — we couldn’t do it without him,” Workman said, adding that both Lucas McKinley and Cole Deiter, who will return as seniors, take care of the ball.
McKinley is sharp at hitting 3-pointers, and Deiter will be even stronger next year, the coach said.
Prairie City, seeded eighth, started the tournament on Feb. 27 with a thrilling 52-48 victory over the No. 1-seed Sherman Huskies in the quarterfinals.
The Panthers had previously beat the Huskies 54-52 early in the season in Prairie City.
Workman said the contest was a tough win.
“They were wanting to beat us pretty bad,” he said. “It was a dog fight to the end.”
Burke scored the first 2 points of the game off an assist from Field.
The teams tied the score twice in the first quarter with Sherman leading 16-11 going into the second. The Huskies had a 26-22 lead at halftime.
The teams knotted up the score twice in the third, and Sherman pulled ahead 43-34 going into the final eight minutes of play.
In the fourth, Sherman hit two of nine attempts from the field and sank 1-of-3 at the free-throw line.
Prairie City landed six of eight attempts from the field, and making a big difference in the final two minutes were Deiter, Holman and McKinley who each went 2-of-2 at the free-throw line for the Panthers’ win.
Burke led both teams in scoring with 15 points and had 12 rebounds and four blocks. He was named Player of the Game for Prairie City.
Keenan Coles was Player of the Game for Sherman with 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Prairie City Panthers knew Friday’s semifinal battle with Nixyaawii, seeded No. 5, would be a tough one, but it’s likely no one anticipated the Golden Eagles’ sizzling start, which led to Nixyaawii’s 71-49 victory.
In the first three minutes of the contest, the Golden Eagles exploded with 3-pointers from sophomore Tyasin Burns, senior Dazon Sigo and two from junior Quanah Picard.
Meanwhile, nothing was falling for Prairie City, until senior Levi Burke sank one beyond the arc at the halfway mark, the score 12-3.
The Golden Eagles, led by head coach Shane Rivera, added 13 more points in the quarter.
For the Panthers, Holman hit 1-of-2 at the free-throw line, Burke added another 3-pointer off an assist from Field who also landed a 3-point shot.
Nixyaawii had a 25-10 lead going into the second, but there was no backing down from either team.
Scoring went back and forth, with Burke tallying twice in the paint early, followed by a 3-pointer off an assist from McKinley.
The high-intensity play continued as Nixyaawii junior Mick Schimmel scored 2. Burke nabbed a steal from Schimmel and a short while later blocked Schimmel, but Prairie City was unable to convert on the turnovers.
Going into halftime, the Panthers trailed 39-21.
The Golden Eagles outscored the Panthers 16-14 in both the third and fourth quarters.
In the final two minutes, subs saw action on the court, and Prairie City junior Opie McDaniel and sophomore Brandon Horrell both scored 3-point shots. Nixyaawii sophomores Luis Ortega and Reuben Bronson also added one 3-pointer each.
The Golden Eagles hit 27-of-68 field goals. From the 3-point range, Nixyaawii hit 10-of-27. They had 40 rebounds, nine assists and 11 steals.
The Panthers shot 16-of-56 with 8-of-29 from the 3-point range. Prairie City also had 40 rebounds with four assists and three steals.
Burke was named Player of the Game for Prairie City with 25 points, including three 3-pointers and 4-of-7 free throws. He had nine rebounds, three blocks and one steal.
Schimmel was Player of the Game for Nixyaawii with 10 points, one 3-pointer, 1-of-2 free throws, three assists and one steal.
Workman said Nixyaawii was a challenge.
“They jumped out on top quickly,” he said. “From the middle of the first quarter on, we stayed with them but couldn’t get caught up the way they were shooting the ball. They just played basketball — moving the ball, shooting — they did everything well.”
Nixyaawii went on to beat Trinity Lutheran for the championship title.
Third/fifth place game
The Panthers were neck and neck with the No. 7-seed Days Creek Wolves for much of Saturday’s game, vying for third place in the tournament, but the Wolves pulled ahead at the free-throw line in the final minute for the 56-53 win.
Free throws made all the difference for Days Creek.
The Panthers were 50 percent on free throws with only two attempts, while the Wolves shot 14-of-18 free throws.
“Both teams fought and fought,” Workman said. “We played man-to-man defense — both teams played great defense.”
The teams came out on fire from the start, with three lead changes and four ties in the first quarter.
Prairie City had possession from the tip, but it was Days Creek’s Blake Ellis who scored first with a 3-pointer. McKinley tied it just 14 seconds later, landing a 3-point shot.
McKinley sank 5-of-11 shots from beyond the arc in the game.
Burke also landed a 3-pointer with an assist by Field, and added 2 off an assist from McKinley.
With 13 seconds left in the first, the Panthers trailing 12-9, Burke came down with a rebound, and McKinley again scored 3, this time off an assist from Deiter to tie the score 12-12.
Prairie City held the lead most of the way through the second with Burke, McKinley, Field and Deiter combining for 11 points. Field and Deiter each had a steal, and Burke blocked a Days Creek shot.
The Panthers were ahead 23-21 going into halftime, a noisy crowd of fans cheering for their teams.
Prairie City built up a 9-point lead halfway through the third with Burke scoring 2 on a second-chance opportunity and Syd Holman grabbing a defensive rebound assisting Field on a 3-point shot. Field also had a steal, and Deiter added 2. When the ball came into Burke’s hands again, he dunked a shot.
Days Creek also came up with some good moves in the third with Cade Martin and Caleb Kruzic scoring one 3-point shot each and Rocco Muir also landing two shots outside the arc. The Wolves moved ahead 38-37 going into the final eight minutes.
McKinley brought the lead back to Prairie City, when he hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Field in the first 3 seconds.
Days Creek took back the lead, 43-40. Then Deiter stole the ball with Holman dunking it off an assist from Burke to make it 43-42.
The Wolves jumped ahead by 5 when Martin and Kruzic shot perfectly from the free-throw line.
With 1:15 left in regulation, McKinley hit a timely 3-pointer to tie it 51-51.
After Cade went 1-of-1 at the free-throw line, Deiter got a 1-point lead for Prairie City on a jump shot off an assist from Burke with 44 seconds left.
Ellis and Kruzic sealed it for Days Creek, each shooting 2-of-2 on free throws for the 3-point win.
Burke was named Player of the Game for Prairie City with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Kruzic was Player of the Game for Days Creek with 14 points, including 6-6 from the free-throw line, three rebounds and one steal.
Prairie City vs. Sherman
Jojari Field: 4 points, 2-6, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
Levi Burke: 15 points, 7-17 (1-2 free throws), 12 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 steal
Lucas McKinley: 12 points, 4-12 (two 3-pointers, 1-2 free throws), 2 rebounds
Syd Holman: 8 points, 2-6 (4-4 free throws), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Cole Deiter: 11 points, 4-7 (3-4 free throws), 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
Marcus Judd: 1 rebound
Declan Zweygardt: 2 points, 1-1
Wade Fields: 12 points, 5-11 (two 3-pointers), 4 rebounds, 1 steal
Keenan Coles: 13 points, 6-10 (1-2 free throws), 8 rebounds, 2 steals
Tyler Jones: 6 points, 2-6 (2-3 free throws)
Luke Martin: 10 points, 4-9 attempts (2-2 free throws), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals
Caleb Fritts: 7 points, 3-11 (1-2 free throws), 1 assist, 1 steal
Owen Christiansen: 1 rebound
Prairie City vs. Nixyaawii
Jojari Field: 11 points (two 3-pointers, 3-4 free throws), 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Levi Burke: 25 points (three 3-pointers, 4-7 free throws), 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 steal
Lucas McKinley: 3 rebounds, 1 assist
Syd Holman: 4 points (one 3-pointer, 1-2 free throws), 8 rebounds, 1 assist
Cole Deiter: 2 points, 11 rebounds
Opie McDaniel: 3 points (one 3-pointer)
Jayden Winegar: 1 point (1-2 free throws), 1 rebound, 1 steal
Brandon Horrell: 3 points (one 3-pointer)
Declan Zweygardt: 2 rebounds
Prairie City vs. Days Creek
Jojari Field: 8 points (two 3-pointers), 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals
Levi Burke: 18 points (one 3-pointer, 1-2 free throws), 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks
Lucas McKinley: 17 points (five 3-pointers), 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Syd Holman: 2 points, 1 assist, 1 block
Cole Deiter: 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 4 steals
Tyasin Burns: 15 points (two 3-pointers, 1-2 free throws), 5 rebounds, 7 steals
Quanah Picard: 14 points (two 3-pointers, 2-2 free throws), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal
Mick Schimmel: 10 points (one 3-pointer, 1-2 free throws), 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Deven Barkley: 2 points (2-2 free throws), 6 rebounds, 3 assists
Dazon Sigo: 7 points (one 3-pointer), 3 rebounds, 1 steal
Reuben Bronson: 3 points (one 3-pointer)
Moses Moses: 6 points (one 3-pointer, 1-2 free throws), 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Luis Ortega: 6 points (two 3-pointers), 1 rebound
Magi Moses: 8 points, 8 rebounds