The Nyssa boys basketball team hit the hardwood last Wednesday for a morning practice before the Thanksgiving break. (The Enterprise/Kristine de Leon)

VALE – Irrigon and Umatilla will be the teams to beat on the boys’ side of the Eastern Oregon League this season and while practices in Nyssa are in full swing, Vale didn’t hit the hardwood until late last week.

Success on the football field – the Vikings reached the Class 3A semifinals – delayed practice, said Colby Shira, Vale basketball coach.

That also means, Shira said, he begins practice with some athletes nursing injuries from the grid season. The Vikings open their season Thursday against Melba at 4 p.m.

Shira said he feels pretty good as the Vikings will have several key returners from the team that finished 7-16 last season.

That includes seniors Kade Haueter, Tanner Hamilton, Marco Ramirez and Oscar Bahena. 

Haueter received honorable mention in last year’s all-league selections.

Shira said he is expecting Haueter and Hamilton to step into leadership roles during the season. 

“We are not the biggest team in the world,” said Shira.

Shira said inexperience hurt the Vikings last year.

“We were in about four or five or more games (that) we should have won, but lost at the end,” said Shira.

Shira said he believes Umatilla, Nyssa and Irrigon will be the teams fighting to win the league title.

 “Everybody should be back and healthy by league,” said Shira.

Nyssa Coach Aaron Mills also thinks Umatilla and Irrigon will fight for the top slot in the EOL. 

Nyssa begins the season Friday at Cole Valley, Idaho. 

The Bulldogs return four starters – Omar Jaquez, Pedro Chavez, Jorge Ortiz and Augustin Trujillo – from a team that finished 15-10 last season.

“We also have some quality newcomers and will have a much deeper bench,” said Mills.

Mills said the Bulldogs would also push the tempo on the hardwood.

“Our team will play fast,” said Mills.

Mills said he sees potential in his squad.

“Last year I learned what these kids can do. They have learned from me what it will take to be a championship-caliber team. The team is practicing with a lot more energy this year,” said Mills.