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PHI SLAMMA TANNA: Imbler's Tanner McIntosh was a first team all-state selection last season.  (The Observer/JOE SOVA).
PHI SLAMMA TANNA: Imbler's Tanner McIntosh was a first team all-state selection last season. (The Observer/JOE SOVA).

Joe Sova

Sports Editor

Joseph has a lot going for it heading into the quarterfinals of the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires 1A Basketball State Championships this week in Baker City.

The Eagles, the second seed from the Old Oregon League and ranked seventh in the 1A coaches poll, square off against third-ranked Columbia Christian at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Baker High School.

Joseph takes in a solid 21-6 record. Four of the Eagles' six losses were to top-ranked Imbler.

Four players for Joseph – seniors Derrek Layton and Kyle Hook, and juniors Joe Dawson and Tristan Patton – average in double-figure scoring.

"If they shut one guy down we can go to other guys to score," Lathrop said.

Jo-Hi has been to the quarterfinals of the state tournament four of the last five years – three times from 2001 to 2004 in Class 2A, and this year in 1A.

"We play to get to the (state) tournament," Lathrop said. "That's our goal .... They (the Eagles) have an opportunity and they don't want it to let it pass them by."

Lathrop feels that playing a quality team like Imbler four times has been beneficial.

"You don't learn a lot winning by 40. You learn by playing close games," Lathrop said.

Columbia Christian, with a 21-4 record and the top seed from the Casco League, is a formidable foe. Under head coach Jim Flint, the Knights have played in the last two 1A state championship games – both decided in the final minute. They lost to Mohawk 48-43 two years ago, and to North Clackamas Christian 45-42 last March.

Columbia Christian has won two of its three games against North Clackamas Christian this season. The most recent victory was 59-58 in the district tourney championship game.

"They're pretty comparable to us, sizewise, in quickness and shooting ability," Lathrop said. "They're patient. They'll push the ball when they get the opportunity. They try to go inside and outside.

"You have to take advantage of whatever they give you.

After battling through injuries and illness, the Eagles appear to be healthy and ready for a run in the state tourney.

"We've been to Baker once already," said Lathrop, referring to three games in the district tournament two weeks ago. "We played the best team (Imbler) there is out there. We shouldn't be intimidated by anybody."

The Joseph-Columbia Christian winner faces the Umpqua Valley Christian-South Wasco County winner in the semifinals at 8:15 p.m. Friday.

The losers of those first-round games battle at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

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