Wednesday, December 7, 2011/lk
Second-year HRVHS girls basketball coach Tom Ames looks around a practice and sees a lot of familiar faces.
Just not many who were in the starting lineup last year.
"We crunched some numbers and figure we lost about 55 percent of everything and about 60 percent of our rebounds," Ames said.
Most of that came from two key players for the Eagles last year - Jaci Bryant and Angie Titus - both of whom are playing collegiate ball this season.
By the end of last season the Eagles' offense largely revolved around getting Titus the ball at the post and then using the fact that she was double- or triple-teamed to their advantage.
There is no one scorer on this year's team who is capable of taking over a game, so Ames said he is going to be relying on his team to play more as a unit this year.
"They are going to have to play together more," he said.
The Eagles return some players with starting lineup experience from last year, including Logan Bailey, Megan Winans, Katie White, Emili Metivier and Danae Burck, but none of them carried a significant scoring load.
"We lost a ton of experience from last year," Bailey said. "A lot of our go to players are no longer here."
That doesn't mean the Eagles are not without options; Winans came into her own as a scrappy post player last year, Bailey is capable of playing at the post of on the wing, as is Burck, and White has experiencing running the offense after being thrust into the starting point guard spot late last season after an injury to Bryant.
Still, the early practices for the Eagles have been like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle as the team tries to learn new roles and Ames tries to figure out who works best in what spot.
"Our practices have been a lot different this year," Bailey said. "We are still trying to figure out all the pieces."
The Eagles have plenty of returning guards and swing players like Burck and Bailey give them some flexibility.
Still, Ames knows that if the team is going to succeed this year it's going to have to find a new source of points after the loss of Titus, Bryant and three-point specialist Emily Ing.
"We'll be OK," he said. "We have enough kids who have played some minutes and everyone has been through the program."
Across the league, Hermiston figures to again be the favorite to win the league title after returning a large portion of the team that went 12-0 in league play and took fourth in state.
The real battle figures to be for second, where HRV, The Dalles-Wahtonka and Pendleton all find themselves reloading.
On the Eagles team, everyone is learning new roles in the process. Last year's varsity role players are this year's main scorers, and last years JV players are this year's varsity role players.
"We are all coming together from different teams," White said.
The Eagle boys team is going through a similar, if slightly bumpier, transition.
The Eagles are coming off a two-win season, and the player that kept the final score respectable in many of their games, Chris Dirks, is now playing at Linfield.
That leaves first-year head coach Steve Noteboom with plenty of challenges as he sets to work rebuilding the Eagles.
Noteboom knows that the Eagles have a steep mountain to climb, and hopes to use tough man-to-man defensive pressure as an equalizer.
That intensity has kept his players busy in the opening weeks of practice.
"It's a different feel out there," said senior wing Cole Hunter.
"There is a lot more focus on defense," added fellow senior wing Torey Schmidt.
"It's a lot more running," chimed in senior post Cody Walker.
Noteboom has turned to his seniors to help establish the tone early and so far they are responding.
They have simple goals this season: Leave the program better than it was, and earn the respect of their opponents.
"We want to change the view of this program," Schmidt said.
That starts with execution. Noteboom has put in a motion-based offense, centered around cuts, screens and ball movements to try and create scoring opportunities. The Eagles lost every post player with varsity experience last year.
That means that movement, and the ability to quickly master Noteboom's offense, will be key to HRV's success.
The Eagles will have very few chances to show their progress to home fans in the first month of the season, they have only two home games before the new year, with Dec. 8 and Dec. 29 games.
"We are really going to be relying on that senior leadership," Noteboom said.
The first order of business for the Eagles will be winning their first Columbia River Conference game. The Eagles went 0-12 in league last year, with their narrowest losses coming in a seven-point defeat to Hermiston in the league opener, and a nine-point loss to The Dalles in the regular season finale.
Just as on the girls' side, Hermiston figures to be the favorite to win the league after an 11-1 league record last year.
The Eagles will get first crack at the Bulldogs at home in the league opener Jan. 6.
The Eagles are hoping to improve on last year's performance and have some young players, such as Ryan Wheat, who showed promise in varsity time last year, who will not only be counted upon to contribute this year, but in years to come.
But for this year's seniors, they hope to set the team off in the right direction.
"We don't want to be a joke," Hunter said. "We want to be the change."