Both Neah-Kah-Nie basketball teams have had their fair share of wins and loses to start the 2018-19 season.
For the boys team, they have opened up the season with six wins and just three losses. Among those wins were formidable league opponents Portland Christian and Vernonia.
The Pirates began league play on Dec. 10 against the Portland Christian Royals on the road. In what proved to be a back and forth battle between the two teams, the Pirates came out on top with a 47-43 win.
“This was a great way to start the Northwest League season,” head coach Tim Gienger said. “I really expect us, Columbia Christian and Portland Christian to be the top three teams in our league. I thought they (PC) would be really good, particularly after moving down to Class 2A this year from the Class 3A level from a year ago. They are very good, they have some talented players, but we handled the pressure well. We handled everything they threw at us and we did a good job. We made our free throws at the end, which was great to see.”
A few nights later, the Pirates lost a heartbreaker at home against City Christian by a score of 60-59. But luckily the sting from the one-point loss did not last two long as the Pirates came back and beat Vernonia at home 51-48 on Dec. 14.
Most recently, the Neah-Kah-Nie boys battled league foe Knappa on Dec. 18. Although the Pirates are much improved this season, they still could not seem to find their rhythm against the Loggers, who cruised to a 71-38 win despite losing to Portland Christian just a few nights ago.
Prior to the loss at Knappa, the boys held the No. 8 ranking in the state and they will undoubtably look to rebound from the defeat when they face Columbia Christian, the top team in the state, on Jan. 4.
“We’ve all been playing together since the fourth grade, so our team chemistry is at a really high level right now,” senior AJ Pieper said. “With the group of guys we have on our team, I think we’re capable of going on a deep run into the state playoffs this year. We have the potential of doing that and it would really be an awesome accomplishment if we could reach the state tournament in Pendleton this season.”
The Neah-Kah-Nie girls team also boasts a pair of league wins this year, as well as a pair of losses. The first loss came at the hands of the top ranked Portland Christian Royals on Dec. 10 by a score of 55-19.
“We were hoping to have a little better performance and we even had a practice on Sunday to try and help us get well prepared for that game,” senior Avery Smith said. “Things didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but I think after we play a couple more games and work on improving some things in practice, then I think we’ll do a little better. We’ve been focusing on trying to eliminate our turnovers and just try to play more calm on offense.”
The Lady Pirates were able to score their first league win a few days later against City Christian by a narrow margin of 38-36. However, the team again faltered when they faced Vernonia on Dec. 14, who took a 38-19 win.
But the see-saw season most recently had the Pirates on the high side with a victory over the Knappa Loggers on Dec. 18. The Lady Pirates used a 26-16 second and third quarters to power their way to a 48-39 victory, claiming their second league win of the year.
“We have a great group of young ladies that are a lot of fun to work with and they’ll keep working hard by taking one step at a time to improve,” head coach Corey Duoma said.