MYRTLE POINT — Around Myrtle Point’s boys locker room, the basketball players don’t brag about their big shots. They brag about their great passes.
It’s one of the things that makes the Bobcats special and have landed them in the Class 2A playoffs.
Myrtle Point hosts Stanfield on Friday, with the winner advancing to the state tournament in Pendleton.
If the Bobcats do the things that got them this far, coach Dave Larsen likes their chances.
“If we play our game, we’ll be fine,” he said, describing Myrtle Point’s pressure defense, which leads to transition offense, which leads to that passing.
“Everybody loves to get those assists,” said Brad Larsen, one of three seniors on the squad.
What makes Myrtle Point’s offense so effective is the combination of unselfish play and potent weapons.
Seniors Matt Newton and Kyle Seals are talented inside players. Guards Cooper Stateler, Thomas Nathan and Larsen can spot up outside or slash to the hoop. Taylor Fischer, the primary reserve, is a solid shooter from 3-point range.
“We don’t care who scores,” said Newton, explaining that on any given night any of the six players might lead the team in scoring.
“The diverse scoring is what keeps us good,” Larsen said.
The Bobcats think their speed is one place where they might have an edge on Stanfield, which is located between Hermiston and Pendleton near the Interstate-84 corridor.
That’s why Myrtle Point doesn’t want to get in a slow-down game Friday.
“If we play defense like we usually do and get up and pressure them … if we play well, there’s no reason we can’t win the game,” Dave Larsen said.
The Bobcats used that recipe to finish third in the Sunset Conference behind Coquille and Glide. As the top Class 2A team in the hybrid league, they had the top seed for the district playoffs last weekend at Medford. And when they beat Lost River, they earned their home playoff game.
A win Friday would put the Myrtle Point in the state tournament for the first time since 1994, when Larsen was the assistant coach to Steve Perkins and the Bobcats finished second, losing the title game to Junction City.
“For me, it’s not that long ago,” Larsen said. “These kids weren’t born yet.”
Just getting to this point was hard to imagine when Larsen became head coach three years ago. He was the team’s fourth coach in four years. But the combination of continuity in the coaching and improved players led to the Bobcats getting better each year before they finally broke through this winter.
And the players understandably are thrilled.
“This is my first state experience,” said Newton, a three-sport athlete.
“It feels great,” added Seals.
Brad Larsen has competed in the state track meet, but said he was equally excited.
“We just want to make sure Friday’s not our last game,” said Seals.
The method for that is simple, he said.
“We’ve just got to execute,” Seals said. “We can’t let them slow down our tempo. We’re an up-tempo team.”
Dave Larsen said Stateler is the driving force in an offense that requires all five players.
“When he’s hitting shots and he’s getting it up the floor, I think that’s when we’re playing the best,” the coach said. “The other guys get out and run.
“Bradley and Thomas, they’re looking to dish the ball and get Matt and Kyle involved. It’s fun to watch when they’re playing well.”
The coach isn’t the only one who enjoys the fast pace.
“It’s so fun,” Brad Larsen said.
“It gets the crowd going, too,” Seals added.
The Bobcats are hoping for a big crowd Friday.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. and the winner will face either unbeaten Irrigon or Delphian in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.