Season preview Girls hoopsters thinking, but not expecting, playoffs

Experienced juniors and seniors lead charge for Eagles

Coach Tracy Norton and the Hood River Valley girls basketball team are approaching the new season a little differently than in years past.

Instead of waiting until mid-January to discover their rhythm, the Eagles are hoping to find continuity early on — something that was missing during the first month of the 2002-03 season when the team started 0-7.

“It seemed like we didn’t have any chemistry last year, especially early in the season,” said junior guard Kristen Hedges, who is one of four returning starters.

“This year already seems different, though. We played a lot over the summer, and we are more together on and off the court because of it.”

Both the players and coaches agree that an improved sense of team unity could be critical to early-season success this year.

The Eagles are more of an altruistic bunch this year, willing to share the glory for the good of the team. But they are also a more cohesive, athletically inclined unit than last year, which should provide a boost on both ends of the floor.

“We have a lot of quickness with our guards and forwards, but we also have more size than last year, which should open things up,” said Norton, the third-year head coach.

“Anna (Hidle) and Suni (Davis) have improved tremendously, and our other returning players have also polished their overall games. We hope that will get us off to a good start.”

Norton added that she expects Hidle and Davis to emerge as the team’s two on-court leaders because of the new-found confidence they developed while playing in club tournaments over the summer.

“I think they are going to surprise some people,” she said. “Neither of them really blossomed until last summer, and I think their improved skills and confidence will make a huge difference for us.”

Hidle, a three-year varsity veteran, will carry the load in the paint along with sophomore returning starter Meghan Flem.

Juniors Hailey Christensen and Jillian Jones, and freshman Sandra Jefferies will also see time in the paint for the Eagles.

Meanwhile, Davis will take over the primary ball-handling responsibilities as the starting point guard — a role that Hedges managed most of last season, but willingly relinquished this year.

“Suni and I work really well together, and I would almost prefer to move more without the ball,” Hedges said. “I can play point guard if needed, but Suni has already shown that she’s going to be a good fit at the position.”

Rounding out the starting lineup is junior Katie Flory, who went from being a varsity swing player last year to one of the Eagles’ biggest offensive threats.

She also possesses quick hands and has the ability to rebound, giving Norton another front-court option in a conference traditionally dominated by strong inside teams such as Hermiston, Redmond and Bend.

“We’re still trying to figure out what groups work best together,” Norton said. “But we have a pretty good idea of who is going to contribute the most. We don’t really have a set lineup, but we will probably go with the most athletic, best defensive unit whenever possible.”

Another player who could crack the starting five is senior Alyssa Ortega, a third-year varsity player who was hampered by injuries most of last season.

A consistent mid-range jump shot and an ability to get into the lane make Ortega a reliable first player off the bench for the Eagles, who also hope to find minutes for underclassmen Rochelle Friend and Mariah Herman.

“We want to get as many kids in the game as we can during the preseason,” Norton said. “We are lucky to have some experience this year, but we are still a very young team. So if we can get the younger players comfortable before league play begins, we will be a lot better off down the road.”

If all the pieces come together, as they did during Monday’s Hood River Jamboree, the Eagles believe they can contend for a playoff spot in their second year of Intermountain Conference play.

Norton said she expects Redmond and Pendleton to be the teams to beat, with Hermiston and Bend close behind. But with six

returning players, HRV isn’t too far back. And if everything meshes both inside and out, the Eagles could be in the running for the No. 3 or No. 4 playoff seed.

“We still have a pretty strong team left over from last year, and we really got better over the summer,” said Flory. “We would all love to get to the playoffs, but it’s still too early to predict. I just know it’s been a long time.”

Flory added that she thinks HRV is very balanced this year, featuring five or six players who will contribute equally to the team’s success.

“I think everyone is going to contribute the same offensively,” she said. “No one person is going to have to score all the points or grab all the rebounds. We’re pretty united this year, and I think we are going to be a much better team.”

Team defense will also be a factor in the Eagles’ success, and coach Norton has been very pleased with the early returns.

“We have been concentrating on defense almost exclusively over the first month of practice,” she said. “Intense pressure is going to be a big key for us, and by teaching the players to read and react better, we can create a lot more fast break opportunities.”

Davis, Flory and Hidle were unrelenting in Monday’s jamboree wins over Roosevelt (17-3), The Dalles (16-6) and Riverside (11-6), forcing a ton of turnovers and dominating the glass.

Everyone on the roster saw playing time, and Norton was happy with the overall effort.

“We applied better pressure in the first two games, but we were also experimenting with some different lineups,” she said. “It was a good warmup for us, but you never know until you play an actual game.”

HRV hoped to maintain its momentum in Tuesday’s season opener against former Mt. Hood Conference rival Barlow, before returning home for three straight games, starting with Clackamas on Dec. 9.

The league opener is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 9, at Redmond, followed by a Jan. 10 tilt against Bend High.

“We’re pretty stoked for this season,” Hedges said. “We have a lot of potential, and I’d like to think we have enough to get to the playoffs.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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