Girls hoops squad starting young

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Huskies will be young and inexperienced in girls basketball this year.

“We’ve had to adjust,” new Coach Ken Roberts said. “Some of the kids we expected to be there ended up not playing basketball.”

The program has been cut to two teams, varsity and junior varsity squads of 11 players each, Roberts said, noting that such changes are not unusual when a first-year coach takes over.

The varsity team will field four seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and one or two freshmen.

“That’s what we’re practicing with,” Roberts said.

Senior Nicole Fagan, who has played some varsity ball, will handle low post, Roberts said. “She’s got good moves underneath.”

She will split time with Jenny Hamn, a junior who played varsity minutes last year.

“Jenny’s one of our strongest scorers,” Roberts said. She has good speed for being the tallest girl on the team at 5 feet 10 inches.

She’s a little quicker, and “we can use her in more ways than one,” Roberts said. She’ll also spend time at the high post.

Hillary McCartin, a sophomore on the varsity floor for the first time, will back them up, depending on what the team is trying to do, Roberts said. She’s taller and a little more slender. She doesn’t have weight to bring to the post, but she can bring quick movements.

Freshman Hailee Huenergardt is practicing at the high post as well, Roberts said. “Those are our post players.”

The Huskies can also play veteran wing Paige Niemi, a junior, at high post.

Ashley Danielson, a senior, will probably start at point guard, Roberts said. She played some point behind Tabby Trahan last year as a junior and is the team’s best ball handler and best outside shooter.

“We’re hoping to get a good show of points from her,” Roberts said. She also will move out to the wings sometimes.

That’s when freshman Rylee Cole will fill in at point, Roberts said. She’s quick and smart, and she’s a good ball handler.

On the wings, Niemi will be joined by Alex Thompson, a senior with some varsity minutes last year, Roberts said. Thompson will be third in line at point guard as well.

Also joining the squad is senior Heather Polley, Roberts said. “She’s a hustler on defense” and will play minutes in that role.

Sophomores Kishaya Davis and Celena Westfall will round out the lineup, Roberts said.

“It’ll take time for our offense to develop,” Roberts said. The team will play a man-to-man offense, but it doesn’t have enough counters yet to give the offensive a different look when the defense overplays the Huskies.

The offense is basic, Roberts said, and is focused on the fundamentals.

“In general, what I’m saying is our offense will probably be the last thing to develop the way we want to develop it,” he said. Early on, he wants to be focused on defensive boards and breaking the press.

On defense, the team is focusing on a basic 1-3-1 zone that will trap out at half court a bit and morph to man defense and fading back to zone as needed. The team won’t be running full-court presses at this point.

“Most of the really good teams are going to press you,” Roberts said. Eventually, his team will need to do it too, but right now, “we do have to break the press.”

The Huskies will play a tough schedule to start, Roberts said. They were scheduled to open at home with Cascade on Tuesday and then move on to face Gladstone, a team that presses all game long and is probably among the top five.

The schedule is tough, but there are some teams that Roberts hopes to compete with, he said. Roberts doesn’t know the league well yet.

Newport was the winner last year, he said. Philomath was second, but Central upset Philomath in the conference playoffs sending Philomath to state as third seed.

Those three teams are the ones the Huskies have to figure out how to beat, Roberts said. Taft is young and struggling.

Whether the Huskies can beat the big three “depends on how much we are going to get down,” he said.

“We’ve got the talent to be competitive,” Roberts said. A .500 season is a realistic expectation to make and would be a good step up. “We’ve got kids that can do something.”

Tony Ward, with coaching experience in track and football, is assisting Roberts this year. Jeff Neal is the first-year junior varsity coach. He coached freshman boys last year in Salem.