One Redmond boys basketball team is in the thick of the chase for postseason play, and which school it is might have been quite a surprise before the season.
Several teams at Central Christian School have struggled to get many victories recently, with the boys soccer team being ranked 46th of 46 teams in the Oregon School Activities Associations smallest classification and the girls basketball team ending a 56-game losing streak earlier this season.
But the Central Christian boys basketball team has bucked that trend in the 2016-17 season. Going into their next game Feb. 9 against Gilchrist, which will be followed Feb. 10 by the regular season finale at North Lake in Silver Lake, the Tigers (5-6 Mountain Valley League, 11-9 overall) are in fifth place in their 10-team Class 1A conference. The top two teams in the conference qualify automatically for the playoffs, with teams three-through-six moving on to play-in games.
Third-year Central Christian coach Brian Delamarter credits the players and assistant coach Jeff Knipe with helping the improvement from 2-17 overall in the 2016-17 season.
“I think, more than anything, it’s been a change in the guys’ attitudes,” Delamarter said. “In the past, it’s been, we’re going to win two games and that’s it. Coach Knipe and myself have tried to instill some confidence in the guys.”
The Tigers have struggled in the past because partly they don’t have their own gym. They play games at the Redmond Early Learning Center and practice twice a week at Mountain View Fellowship church.
But, before this season, Central Christian prepared by playing in summer league and tournament games and using open gym workouts.
“Guys would just take it upon themselves to work out together,” Delamarter said.
The team has also been helped by improved depth and contributions from six freshmen and sophomores.
Though it didn’t yet show up in their record, Delamarter could see things starting to come around toward the end of the 2016-17 season.
“You could really see potential as a team, camaraderie developing as a team,” he said. “Knowing each other personally and constant practice has really made a difference.”
Though they lost their last two games to league leaders Hosanna Christian and Trinity Lutheran, the Tigers are showing signs of closing the gap. Central Christian fell 64-24 in its first meeting with Trinity on Jan. 9, but closed the margin to 42-29 when the teams met again Jan. 30 in Redmond.
The team has reason to feel positive going into its final two games. Central Christian defeated Gilchrist 70-59 on Jan. 19 and knocked off North Lake 56-46 on Jan. 12.
“We need to make sure that happens again,” Delamarter said.
The Tigers have even won six games by more than 20 points this year.
“It’s been nice being up on teams by 40 points,” said senior Luke Hannay. “I know what it’s like to be at the other end.”
A positive of being a small school is building a program from kindergarten through 12th grade, Delamarter said. He could see enthusiasm building last season, when 24 boys came out for Central Christian’s junior high team.
“They look up to our boys and girls teams and say, ‘I want to play basketball when I get there,’ ” he said.
Central Christian is in the process of getting its own gym, either through a proposed new campus or some other means, Delamarter said.
“It could be six months away, it could be two or three years away,” he said.
The small school, located near Redmond Municipal Airport, has reason to hope for continued success in the future, said junior Josh Bruce, a key contributor off the bench for the Tigers.
“I’m hoping we will continue to grow as a team and as people,” he said. “As much as we’ve grown, we can grow so much more as a team.”
The excitement around the basketball program has clearly increased this season, though the players admit that a first-year school activity is contributing to that.
“The cheerleaders help too,” Bruce said.
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, email@example.com