Morrow County Commissioner Ken Grieb knew the Irrigon Knights had a special boys basketball team in the making while the kids were still in fifth and sixth grade.
That year, the future 2A state champions participated in a youth camp in Heppner where they arrived in hand-painted T-shirts and went on to win the local tournament. Their success continued into high school, and on March 8 the team captured Irrigon’s first ever hoops title.
The Knights unfurled their newest championship banners at an assembly Thursday afternoon in the school gymnasium, but that wasn’t all. Grieb also read from an official resolution passed by fellow commissioners recognizing March 8, 2014 as Irrigon High School Boys Basketball Team Day across Morrow County.
“I wanted to present this to your school, your team and let you know how proud all of Morrow County is of your accomplishment,” Grieb said.
Principal Craig Bensen commended both the coaches and players for not only bringing home the trophy, but representing their community with pride and integrity. Rival coaches had even sent letters applauding the boys for showing tremendous poise under pressure.
Already with a state title in softball in 2009, and now a third-place finish for the Knights at the Cheerleading State Championship in February, Bensen said they are fast running out room in the trophy case.
“It’s a huge source of pride,” Bensen said. “You see the crowd at our home games, and it’s just phenomenal.”
Not even 10 years ago, the city of Irrigon was fighting just to re-open its high school which had closed in 1959. For 46 years, students were bused to neighboring Riverside High School in Boardman, while Boardman’s seventh- through ninth-graders were brought to Irrigon at what was formerly Columbia Middle School.
Knights booster Barb Huwe remembers coming to Irrigon from Hermiston in 1981. There was nothing really to rally their community spirit, she said, until Columbia Middle School once again became Irrigon Junior-Senior High School in 2005.
“You could just feel the energy that was created when we got our high school back,” Huwe said. “It made all the difference in the world.
The school is really the nucleus of Irrigon, Huwe said. It generates a certain excitement that gets everyone in town buzzing. When the Knights finally captured the state basketball title, Huwe said the community got as big an adrenaline rush as the rest of the team.
“I’m so proud of those boys,” Huwe said. “This is pretty cool.”
This article originally appeared in the March 21, 2014, edition of the East Oregonian and was written by reporter George Plaven with photo by EJ Harris. It has been posted to this site with permission from the East Oregonian.