When putting the past five years into perspective, Sherman head coach Gary Lewis called it a collaborative effort from parents, community members, coaches and players.
When everyone is pulling in the same direction, great things occur.
The No. 1-ranked Huskies wrapped up a fifth consecutive Baker City trip with a 1-2 record, losing 59-52 Saturday versus Damascus Christian to secure sixth-place honors at the 1A state playoffs.
“It has been fun to be a part of this,” Lewis said. “These players have been able to enjoy success because of their support system. You can’t do this in isolation. Yes, we have had a pretty good run of players over the last few years, but at the same time, you got to have support from the school district, administration, the parents and the community. These kids are supported, and they enjoy coming out and performing for the fans. The consistency of our program over the last five years is due to everybody and my hats off to this community for the support that they give these kids.”
Led by Big Sky Conference Player of the Year Luke Martin and senior post Keenan Coles, Sherman brought along several veterans with limited varsity experience and ended up with a 25-5 overall record and went 15-0 in league action.
Other seniors on the roster were Tyler Jones, Caleb Fritts, Hunter Kaseberg and Bryan Macnab, and joining them were Nick Riggs, Wade Fields, Owen Christiansen, Luke Stone, Jeremy Ballesteros and Jed Harrison.
At the start of the season, there was some uncertainty as to how well the Huskies would fare, but they went 7-2 through November and December with two of those losses against Trinity Lutheran and Prairie City coming by two points each.
In January and February, the Huskies won 15 games in a row, until a district championship loss to Horizon Christian on Feb. 16 in Madras.
Sherman then defeated North Clackamas Christian and Siletz Valley in two playoff contests to punch a state trip to Baker City, where they lost 52-48 in their opener versus Prairie City and beat Horizon Christian 59-28 in consolation action to set up a fourth and sixth place game against Damascus Christian.
In addition to Player of the Year, Martin was a first-team all-league winner.
Coles was also on the first squad, Fritts had his named called as a second teamer, and Jones earned honorable mention.
“There are a lot of people that if you told them that Keenan and I would be first-team all-league when we were in the eighth grade, they would shake their heads and laugh,” Martin said. “We gave it everything we had this season, not for awards, but to hopefully get to Baker and win state. If we got any award it’s because of these guys on this team, so we share it with them.”
Last season, the Huskies had a 27-3 record and placed fourth at state.
That group, which had Jacob Justesen and Treve Martin, averaged 68.0 points a game and allowed 41.6, compared to the 59.3 scoring number and 42.3 on defense, so the totals were not that far off.
“This season was a testament to the hard work and dedication of these players,” Lewis said. “Those seniors were a huge part of that. They knew they were as prolific offensively as teams from past years, so our focus was on rebounding and defense. Kudos to them for using that defensive mentality to carry them as far as they did.”
In Saturday’s tilt, the Damascus Christian Eagles led 27-25 at the half, but the Huskies went on an 18-12 third-quarter run to go ahead, 43-39.
Sherman led 47-46 at the 4:57 mark following 1 of 2 free throws by Fritts.
A jumper from Coles inched the Huskies to within 53-49 with 2:35 remaining and a Damascus turnover gave Sherman possession.
Down the stretch, however, Sherman missed two free throws and a 3-pointer and turned the ball over twice, with Fields sinking a 3-pointer with two seconds left for the final score.
Overall, Sherman made 19 of 42 field goals, 2 of 12 3-pointers, and converted on 12 of 17 from the line.
Martin, who earned second-team all-tournament honors, led the Huskies with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists and Coles tacked on 11 points and three rebounds.
Fritts totaled eight points and five boards, Jones chipped in seven points and two rebounds, and Fields went for seven points and three rebounds.
Damascus Christian hit on 20 of 47 field goals, 11 of 22 in the second half, as Jacob Zakharyuk posted 21 points, Johnny Shields notched 14 and Spencer Powers dropped 11 points to pace their squad.
As the eighth seed in the state bracket, Prairie City dealt Sherman a heart-wrenching 52-48 loss Wednesday, which put the Huskies in a consolation contest against Big Sky Conference rival Horizon Christian Thursday.
This season, the Huskies won the first two meetings against the No. 4-ranked Hawks, but Horizon got some revenge in its district championship victory.
Sherman shrugged off the disappointment of not vying for 1A state title possibilities by shooting a blistering 24 of 51 for 47.1 percent, 4 of 7 from 3-point territory, in its lopsided 58-29 triumph.
The Huskies led 28-12 at the half and then followed that up with second-half spurts of 15-7 and 16-9 to pick up their 31-point domination session.
Coles racked up 18 points and 10 rebounds, Martin added 16 points, four boards and two steals, and Fields chipped in 11 points, two rebound and two assists to lead the way.
Jones finished with five points and four rebounds, Fritts played 17 minutes and contributed four points, seven rebounds and a steal and both Riggs and Christiansen combined for five points.
Horizon Christian shot 13 of 37 from the floor, 0 for 3 on 3-pointers, and made 2 of 6 free throws, and turned the ball over 19 times and were out-rebounded 29-25.
Bailey Holste had seven points and two rebounds, Kyle Brown and Caleb Lingel put up four points apiece, with Lingel adding seven rebounds and two assists, and Alex Petshow tallied three points and a rebound in 14 minutes.
In Wednesday's loss to Prairie City, Sherman held a nine-point advantage, 43-34, through three quarters, but the Panthers caught their second wind in the fourth quarter, using an 18-5 run to secure a 52-48 comeback win.
For the game, Sherman shot 20 of 49 for 40.8 percent. Coles posted 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists, Fields was good for 12 points and four boards and Martin added 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Fritts finished with seven points and six rebounds, and Jones ended up with six points.
Leading Prairie City was Levi Burke, who put up 15 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, Lucas McKinley reeled off 12 points and Cole Deiter tallied 11 points and five rebounds.
Prairie converted 11 of 23 for 47.8 percent shooting in the second half and had 32 points in the paint for the game
The Panthers wound up losing to eventual state-champion Nixyaawii by a 71-49 score and lost to Days Creek, 56-53, in Saturday’s third and fifth place game.
Lewis has plenty of great memories over his tenure and a major highlight was seeing the seniors develop into standout players.
“That’s the fun part of this job is seeing the growth in these kids,” Lewis said. “When these seniors were sophomores, I had a lot of them on the junior varsity team and to watch them grow and to see them develop, makes me smile because I remember some of the gangliness and some of the awkwardness that comes when kids are 14 or 15-years-old and they are playing basketball. Watching these kids grow up, mature and play together has been an absolute pleasure. That’s the best part of the job.”