Only two of this year’s six Class 3A Far West League girls basketball teams — Brookings and Douglas — had overall winning records during the 2017-18 season.
The league season is over a month away from starting, but it figures to be an interesting race for first place with Sutherlin, South Umpqua, Cascade Christian and St. Mary’s rounding out the new Far West.
Sutherlin, Douglas and S.U. all dropped from 4A to 3A.
“3A will be a great fit for us. I’m really excited to get the county rivalries going again with Douglas and South Umpqua,” said Sutherlin coach Josh Grotting, whose club was a member of the 4A Sky-Em League last year. “I think this will be one of the tougher leagues in the state.”
“The Far West was probably the toughest league in the state for volleyball, but I don’t think it’ll be that dominating for girls basketball,” Douglas coach Jason Dickover said. “I see good parity in the league ... there are four or five teams that are equally balanced, and I hope we’re in that mix.”
“It’s going to be interesting having Sutherlin back in the mix,” S.U. coach Dusty Pires said.
The three Douglas County teams open their seasons this weekend with nonleague contests. Sutherlin will host 2A Lakeview on Thursday in the Bill Spelgatti Invitational, South Umpqua meets Warrenton Thursday in the Spelgatti tournament and Douglas travels to 2A Rogue River Friday.
Here’s a look at the county teams.
Dickover, in his third year as the Trojans’ head coach, has three returning starters back from a team that finished 13-11 overall and lost to Henley in a 4A play-in.
Among the losses to graduation was Lainey Rincon, a first-team all-league point guard who’s now playing at Umpqua Community College.
“We were young last year, and we’re still young,” coach Dickover said. “We don’t have juniors in the program, mostly seniors and sophomores. I love our overall athleticism. We have good post play, which is one of our strengths. We don’t have many guards, and that would be a weakness.”
Returning starters include 5-foot-7 senior wing Kaylie Hall, 6-1 sophomore post Amy Dickover (the daughter of the coach) and 5-10 sophomore post Mila Snuka-Polamalu. Amy Dickover was a second-team all-league selection, while Hall and Polamalu each received honorable mention.
Senior Ayana Parson (5-foot-6) will take over at point guard. The Trojans are also counting on seniors Taylor Davis (5-9) and Keziah Perez (5-9), and sophomore Mackenzii Phillips (5-9). Perez is a transfer from 1A Days Creek.
“We have such good athletes on the perimeter and hope to get some transition baskets along the way,” Jason Dickover said. “Mackenzii (Phillips) is versatile, especially on the defensive end.”
After seven consecutive winning seasons — highlighted by four straight 4A state titles from 2014-17 — the injury-plagued Bulldogs were competitive last year, but slipped to 11-14 overall and lost to Mazama in a play-in game.
Sutherlin has two returning starters in junior wing Abby Masterfield (5-8) and sophomore wing/guard Paige Bailey (5-7). Masterfield was a second-team all-league selection and Bailey received honorable mention.
The Bulldogs will be without their most experienced player, junior point guard Kiersten Haines, who tore her ACL during soccer season. The two-time all-league guard led Sutherlin in scoring last year with 11 points a game and shot 41 percent from 3-point range.
Sutherlin did gain a nice addition in sophomore guard Jadyn Vermillion (5-7), a transfer from South Umpqua. She made second-team all-league as a freshman.
Other returning players are junior posts Carmen Ganger (5-10) and Hannah Jarman (6-0), senior guard Megan Carrillo (5-4) and sophomore wing Savannah McHugill (5-8). Grotting is high on freshmen Sierra Nielsen (5-7), Tianna Murphy (5-3) and Kaley Kuxhausen (5-4).
“Defensively, we should be pretty darn good,” Grotting said. “We have a lot of speed and length. Paige (Bailey) was our second-leading scorer last year. She got thrown to the wolves, especially when Harlee (Baker) went down, and is more aggressive on offense and has shown a ton of growth.”
Dusty Pires is in his first season of guiding the Lancers after replacing Keri Vermillion. South Umpqua went 10-14 overall last year, losing to North Marion in a 4A play-in.
The Lancers are a little short-handed this season. In addition to losing Jadyn Vermillion, Tayah Kelley and Aaliyah Rudy elected to skip their senior seasons.
“I’m very happy with the effort in practice,” Dusty Pires said. “I have high expectations for us to be competitive in league. Lack of varsity experience is my main concern.”
The lone full-time returning starter is junior wing Shalyn Gray (5-8). An all-state volleyball and softball player, Gray received honorable mention in basketball and made the All-Defensive team.
Senior guard Aneykah McCall (5-4) was a part-time starter last year. The Lancers are also counting on senior wing/post Breanna Griffin (5-7), junior post Kyla Pires (5-9), junior guard Skylee Gibson (5-7), and junior wings Tori Lind (5-8) and Hannah Lowell (5-7).
Kyla Pires is the daughter of the coach.
“We have a good low post presence in Kyla (Pires), and Shalyn (Gray) and Aneykah (McCall) are sports-saavy athletes,” coach Pires said.