On to state

Bend High is sending both its girls and boys basketball teams to the Class 5A basketball state championships at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene. Here is a glance at who the Lava Bears face in the quarterfinal round of each tournament.

Girls: Bend vs. Lebanon, today, 3:15 p.m.

Boys: Bend vs. Churchill, Thursday, 8:15 p.m.

Admission to each session is $12 for adults and $7 for students. For more information, visit www.osaa.org.

Connor Scott was notably smaller then — two inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter.

That was Scott as a Bend High freshman back in 2011, the last time the Lava Bears advanced to the Class 5A boys basketball state tournament. He was 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, a guy not necessarily seeking out a shot but rather embracing his role as a rebounder, a screen setter and loose-ball chaser — a “grunt worker” as described by then-assistant coach Scott Baker, now the Bears’ head coach.

Three years later (and at 6-2, 185), Scott is set to return to Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene with the Lava Bears — this time with ample varsity experience, this time as a leader rather than a learner, and this time with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.

“Now, everything’s on the line,” the senior wing says. “This is the last time I get to play high school basketball. Then, I had (three) more years that I got to keep going. Now, I just have to go out and hopefully end with a bang.

“I didn’t think it would take this long (to go back).”

In 2011, Scott was the second or third player off the bench who provided Bend with size in the frontcourt. (“We weren’t that big,” Baker recalls.) Scott was a swing player during the regular season, splitting time between JV and varsity. But when the state tourney arrived, his temporary status was lifted and Scott was promoted to varsity full time. He found his niche as a role player and scrapper, though the stage at Matthew Knight Arena was slightly daunting.

“I don’t know if I felt out of place,” Scott reflects. “But it was definitely an atmosphere I had never seen before. It was such a different court — it was longer, more people in the stands. I’d say it was overwhelming at first. But you just have to figure out that it’s just basketball and go play your game.”

Scott’s stat line at the 2011 state tournament was not exactly jaw-dropping (zero-for-1 shooting, zero-for-3 from the free-throw line in three games), but his one-time state tournament experience provides his first-time tourney teammates a valuable resource.

“He’ll talk to them about what it’s like to be down on the floor the first time, kind of the shock and awe and the nerves of the first game and the excitement that’s there,” Baker says. “He knows what the role players are going through. Sometimes the minutes for role players aren’t quite what everyone wants. But he’s experienced that at the varsity level, and he can talk to the boys about his experience there. The big thing for him is to just continue the leadership role he’s had all year for us.”

Scott’s firsthand knowledge proves valuable in certain areas. But for the most part, the Lava Bears (17-7 overall) will not rely too much on their senior wing. As Baker puts it, they do not want to place that much pressure on Scott.

“We’ve always relied on each other,” the first-year Bend head coach says. “We stress all year about being teammates, and I think that’s the thing: He, along with all the other seniors, has bought into that. It’s not one person trying to be the guy, but everybody trying to be the best teammates they can be.”

“We kind of have leadership from all over on the team,” adds senior guard Wyatt Beaumarchais, who traveled with the Lava Bears to the 2011 state tournament as a manager. “They may look to him (Scott) from time to time, but for the most part I feel like we’re pretty unified as a team. I don’t think that with him being the only one having been there before it will really change anything. I think that we’ll have the same advantage that every other team will have.”

In a way, Beaumarchais says, this trip to Matthew Knight Arena could be seen as Scott’s first state tournament.

“He was there three years ago,” the Bend guard says. “So many things have probably changed. ... When he was there, he was a little freshman and everyone else was seniors. Now he’s with our whole group of friends we’ve had since middle school. I think in a way it will be like his first time.”

When Scott steps on the Matthew Knight Arena floor with the Lava Bears on Thursday night for a quarterfinal matchup against Churchill of Eugene, he still may find the scene a bit unsettling. Yes, Bend has taken center stage this season with archrival Mountain View in madhouse Civil War games (specifically the two-point nailbiter win at Bend High on Feb. 28). But as Scott knows well, a typical high school gym just does not compare to the 3-year-old, $200-million, 12,000-seat University of Oregon arena.

As the first-team all-Intermountain Conference selection points out, however, this is the final chance for him and his team’s other six seniors to return to Central Oregon with the sixth boys basketball trophy in program history.

That is Bend High’s goal: Find a way, any way, to play on Saturday — the placing games. Hopes are high for a strong finish, Scott says, as they were three years ago. But Scott says expectations remain the same for the Lava Bears, that “it’s going to be everybody’s best game, and everybody’s going to come out hard.”

Still, Scott’s biggest piece of advice is simple.

“Just soak it in,” he says. “It’s intimidating for sure, but you just have to remember that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You just have to take it all in and embrace it.”

Scott pauses, then continues: “I’m just going to enjoy it as much as I possibly can.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com .