Two teams have been dominating Eugene prep basketball this season. On Friday night, these two powerhouses will collide in the game of the season regionally.
The (16-4, 9-0) Churchill Lancers sit in the No. 2 ranking in the entire state of Oregon, behind only Jefferson (Portland), and have four remaining games before the start of the 5A OSAA state playoffs. The (17-5, 6-1) Sheldon Irish will come into the game ranked No. 8 in the 6A standings. These two will face off Friday in a battle for revenge and bragging rights.
Sheldon pulled out a narrow 56-51 over Churchill on January 15th at home, but now the game is headed over to the Lancers’ Dome. Churchill has one of the most intimidating student sections in the region, and you can be they’ll be out for vengeance.
So, here is how the teams breakdown and why each team could win:
The Lancers opened the season an impressive 7-0, but dropped two of their next three games in the Mesa Challenge (Mesa, AZ tournament) to teams with a combined record of 41-10. Yeah, those were really good teams. But Churchill as a team has continued to grow since the losses, going 8-2 with both of their loses coming by three and five points to South Eugene and Sheldon respectively.
Since the back-to-back loses, the team has won by an average of 24.2 PPG. Only one of their last six wins has been by fewer than 14 points.
Churchill is at their hottest point, which is exactly where they want to be heading into postseason competition. The Lancers will want to continue the stride with a payback win over the rival Irish. With the home crowd behind them, they’ll role.
The Irish are the most athletically gifted team in the Eugene/Springfield area. Like the Lancers, Sheldon is on its hottest streak of the season and winners of their last 13 games. Excluding a 4-game losing streak early on in the season (three of them to out-of-league teams in the Les Schwab Invitational) the team has an astound 17-1 record.
Head coach Ron Lampe typically has to deal with slow starts to the season, as half of his players make the transition from football season to basketball.
The Irish have proven that they know how to take down the Lancers, not something many can say, and are primed to do it again on an even bigger stage. With the poise and senior leadership behind multi-sport star Connor Strahm, the home-court advantage won’t be a factor. Sheldon has the experience.
Game Prediction:Churchill 57 Sheldon 53
I swear this has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a Churchill alumni! This team is on a mission and seems ready to win its first state championship since 2001. Brothers Malik and Emanuel Morgan make for one of the strongest tandem of guards in the state. Along with 6’6″ Keidren Johnson, Churchill has a lethal inside-outside game. I see the Lancers getting payback for the January showdown exactly a month before.