Kaiden Ford (1) and Landon Knox (4), the Oregon West player of the year, lead Cascade's backcourt. (Photo by Jeremy McDonald)
Kaiden Ford (1) and Landon Knox (4), the Oregon West player of the year, lead Cascade's backcourt. (Photo by Jeremy McDonald)


Cascade sought to build a nonconference schedule with the best competition it could find.

The Cougars weren't alone. The eight teams in this week's OSAA 4A boys basketball tournament come to Forest Grove High School having already played a combined 20 games against each other this season.

Cascade has six games under its belt versus the rest of the field, having taken on five of the other seven teams. Six of the remaining squads have played four of the others.

Last summer, coach Justin Amaya asked his team, which has won the last two state titles, what kind of schedule it wanted. The players didn't want lesser opponents that wouldn't help them prepare for the posteason.

"We knew that would potentially hurt us, and put us at the 1 spot and put us on the same side (of the state bracket) as Baker potentially, and that's what it did," Amaya said. "But we also wanted to be tested as much as possible with the kids."

Mission accomplished.

Cascade (20-4) came through those six games, including two with league rival Philomath, at 5-1. The only loss came Feb. 17 against Crook County in Prineville by a 76-54 score. Amaya rested three starters in the game.

A key stretch in the Cougars' season came three weeks earlier in a 75-64 loss at North Marion in Aurora. Cascade didn't play well, Amaya said, and it was a defeat that woke up the Cougars. The following day, the team traveled to Grants Pass and beat Henley, a 4A tournament team, 63-33, in one of Cascade's best games and a turning point of the season.

Before the Cougars took the floor against Henley, Amaya told the players they would learn a lot about themselves in that contest. The pregame speech centered around playing for each other and making as many "hockey assists" as possible, the coach said.

"It wasn't anything magical," Amaya said of the speech. "It was just about getting back to the basics."

The Henley game was one of five games scheduled on Saturdays in January and February as the result of an offseason fractured foot suffered by junior point guard Landon Knox. Knox missed the first seven games, and Amaya wanted as many games later in the season as possible to help his team find his rhythm with Knox at the helm.

Knox, a returning starter, was named the Oregon West Conference player of the year. He's averaging 15.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game.

"He brings leadership at the guard position, which is hard to replace," Amaya said. "Landon speeds the game up for us. He can get the ball from point A to point B just so fast."

Knox leads a roster that includes seven returners from the 2023 championship. Junior post Anthony Best (14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) is the team's other returning starter.

Cascade is the top seed and gets eighth-seeded Madras in the quarterfinals. Amaya said it's difficult to watch game film of the White Buffaloes "because they're so scrappy and they want to play fast and they shoot the ball really, really well."

Seven of the eight teams from last year's final site return. Amaya acknowledges his team is among the favorites, but he said he believes the tournament is more wide open than some people think it is.

The 4A boys and girls tournaments begin Thursday with the quarterfinals at Forest Grove High School. The boys quarterfinals will be played at Viking Gym and the, girls at Joe Moran Court. All of Friday's semifinals and Saturday's championship games will be held at Joe Moran Court.

Boys quarterfinals, Thursday

(1) Cascade vs. (8) Madras, 1:30 p.m.

Cascade will try to become the first three straight 4A boys titles since the six-classification system was introduced in the 2006-07 school year. Seaside won two in a row in 2017 and 2018 but lost the championship game the following year. Junior guard Kaiden Ford (15.5 points, 3.5 steals), who filled in at point when Landon Knox was injured, went from a key reserve in 2023 to a first team all-league performer this season. Madras (18-6) split two-game sets with league foe Crook County and fellow tournament team Junction City and went 3-3 against teams in the field. Senior guard Seneca Ball, the Tri-Valley Conference player of the year, averages 24.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.9 steals. Senior guard Maikel Poland adds 14.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals.

(4) Baker vs. (5) Philomath, 3:15 p.m.

Baker (25-1) has the fewest matchups (three) against the tournament field. The Bulldogs beat Madras and Crook County but lost to Cascade. "It's really going to be a great game if we're fortunate enough to get past Madras," Amaya said of a potential semifinal tilt with Baker. Bulldogs junior guard Isaiah Jones is the Greater Oregon League player of the year. He averages 14 points and six rebounds. Senior guard Paul Hobson scores at a clip of 12 points per game. Baker's well-balanced attack includes six other players who average between six and nine points per game. Philomath, last year's state runner-up, is led by seniors Preston Kramer and Jacob Peters, both first team all-league picks. The Warriors are 1-4 against tournament teams with a win versus Crook County. Kramer averaged 20.4 points and Peters 12.4 in Oregon West play.

(2) Junction City vs. (7) Henley, 6:30 p.m.

Junction City (21-3) is 4-2 against the tournament field, having defeated Philomath, Henley, Madras and Marist. Junction City defeated Henley 67-50 on Dec, 29 in Sisters. The losses to Marist and Madras were by a combined 11 points. Third at state last year, the Tigers' only loss before January came against 5A Redmond (41-34). Henley (16-7) has defeated Marist but lost to Madras, Junction City and Cascade. The Hornets, fifth at state in 2023, has won seven straight games since a nine-game that included six losses. Henley's Markus McCreadie (19.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals) is the Skyline Conference player of the year and teammate and fellow senior Owen Harper (7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.2 assists) also made the all-conference first team. Teammate Luke Bennett, another senior, averages 9.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals.

(6) Marist Catholic vs. (14) Crook County, 8:15 p.m.

Marist (16-7) split with Junction City in league play, defeated Philomath and lost to Henley and Cascade among its tournament field competition. The Spartans, who finished sixth at state in 2023. lost to two 5A teams and went 3-1 against 3A opponents this season. Crook County was fourth at last year's state tournament. The Cowboys split with Madras in league play and had lopsided losses to Philomath and Madras before defeating Cascade. Crook County was the only road team to win in the round of 16, making the long trip to Seaside to advance. Senior guards Logan Matthews (11.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists) and Tyson Martinez (11.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 assists) made the all-league first team and sophomore forward Bryce Lowenbach (13.0 points, 8.3 rebounds) the second team.


Henley reached the 2023 state tournament and finished sixth with a young team, one that graduated just one senior this past spring.

That success sparked the Hornets to think about the potential and possibilities this year. The squad has made it back to Forest Grove and fourth-year coach Randy Denson likes how his team is playing now three wins from a state title.

"It was like, you get a taste of the state tournament, you definitely want to keep coming back," Denson said.

Henley has taken advantage of its experience with a group of eight returners that includes three starters. The Hornets are 21-1 with wins against fellow tournament teams Madras, Marist Catholic and Klamath Union.

Leading the way for Henley is senior guard/wing Annie Campos, whom Denson describes as a great teammate, hard worker and someone who embodies everything you want in a great player. Campos, who has drawn attention from several NAIA schools, is averaging 15.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 4.2 steals this season. She shared Skyline Conference player of the year honors with Klamath Union's Dianara Pena.

"She can go inside, she can go outside. She's pretty focused on any of our scouting assignments," the coach said of Campos, who is closing in on 1,500 career points. "One of those players that we may never see in our program again."

Henley plays Madras in the quarterfinals. The Hornets defeated the White Buffaloes 74-62 on Dec. 29 at the Sisters Shootout. That was one of 19 regular-season games between the quarterfinal teams. Cascade, Philomath and Stayton lead with four wins against the rest.

"It's kudos to all the eight teams there," Denson said. "I think what most of the teams are doing is what we're doing, is trying to hunt those big tournaments or try to find these games early so we can get that experience when we get to March."

Girls quarterfinals, Thursday

(1) Astoria vs. (9) Stayton, 1:30 p.m.

At 3-0, Astoria (21-4) is the only undefeated team against the rest of the field this season, having defeated Madras twice and Cascade. Stayton (19-4) is 4-2 with wins against four different tournament teams (Klamath Union, Cascade, Philomath, Marist Catholic). Astoria, third at state last year, has no losses to 4A teams and hasn't lost since Dec. 19. The Fishermen's only defeats have been against 3A state champ Corbett (twice) and two teams from Colorado. Stayton heads to the final site with eight straight wins. The Eagles get eight points and seven rebounds a game from junior Kenzi Hollenbeck, five points and 6.5 rebounds from senior Liv Smart and four points and four rebounds from junior Haley Butenschoen.

(4) Cascade vs. (5) Klamath Union, 3:15 p.m.

Cascade (17-7) also has four wins against tournament teams (Henley, Marist Catholic, Stayton, Philomath) and has played a field=best five tournament teams (4-3 overall). Just three of the Cougars' seven losses are against 4A teams (Astoria, Philomath, Stayton). Cascade senior guard Maddie Dustin is the Oregon West player of the year. Dustin averages 17.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 3.7 steals and shoots 82.5% at the foul line. She's made 52 3-pointers on the season. Teammate Olivia Bennett, a sophomore guard, adds 11.2 points a game. Klamath Union (17-3) has three games against the field after splitting with Henley and losing to Stayton. The Pelicans are led by seniors Keely Hall (14.8 points, 5.6 rebounds), Dianara Pena (12.6 points) and Kshalee Thomas (10.9 points, 50 3-pointers).

(3) Philomath vs. (11) Marist Catholic, 6:30 p.m.

Philomath (20-5) edged 2023 champion Baker by a point in the round of 16. The Warriors are 4-2 versus the field with wins against Cascade, Stayton and Marist Catholic (twice). Junior guard Anneka Steen (9.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.1 steals in league play) and freshman post Reagan Heiken (13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds) are Philomath's leading contributors. Marist (12-11), of Eugene, made the long bus ride to La Grande last Saturday and came back with a 36-30 win to advance. The Spartans are led by senior Addie Ruckwardt (10.3 points, 7.2 rebounds), junior McKenna De Lee (6.1 points, 83% on free throws) and senior Avia Tuguldur (4.8 points, 4.9 rebounds)

(2) Henley vs. (7) Madras, 8:15 p.m.

Henley (21-2) has to be considered a favorite, as the Hornets' only losses are to Cascade and Klamath Union. Henley gets contributions beyond Annie Campos. Junior forward/center Anna Harper averages 9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds, sophomore guard/wing Senia Campos 7.9 points and 3.1 rebounds and sophomore wing/forward Lily Fussell 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds. Madras (18-6), which made the final site last year, is 14-2 in its last 16 games, with the defeats to Crook County and Astoria. Senior guard Rylan Davis, the Tri-Valley player of the year, averages 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.7 steals. Teammate Sasha Esquiro, a senior wing guard, adds 10.6 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals.