OSAA reclassification does not take effect until next school year, but change is already in the air for Intermountain Conference girls basketball.
Summit has a new head coach, as does Ridgeview. Bend will be moving forward without last year’s IMC co-players of the year Tayla Wheeler and Sophia Jackson, and Mountain View returns just two of the 10 players on last year’s roster.
And who has the upper hand is anyone’s guess.
“I’ve been given information about teams; I’ve been told, ‘This team runs like this,’” said new Summit coach Lynnette Landis, a Redmond High grad who returned to Central Oregon with her family this summer after playing and coaching basketball in the Seattle area for 35 years. “But you can’t base (your coaching) on that. You might know your team coming in, and then September-October rolls around, and you have three great transfers who can really change the look of your team. Things can change for anybody. And we’re just going to take every team as if they’re the best in the conference.”
Summit, which went 15-8 last season and lost in the first round of the state playoffs, has lost second-team all-IMC player Kelsey Norby to graduation. Sisters Maddie and Morgan Hagfors, who both earned all-IMC honors as juniors, did not come out for basketball their senior year. And the players who have returned will be adjusting to a new style of play.
“I don’t want to give away too much of what I do, but it’s probably not similar” to how the Storm have played in the past, Landis said. “All these kids are learning a new system. We’re trying to keep it simple. We’re hoping to be a transition team. Our kids are athletic, very athletic, all of them in the whole program.”
The Storm are a bit light on experience, with three seniors, Hailee Neibauer, Callista West and Taylor West, as well as junior Olivia Loberg, who earned second-team IMC honors as a sophomore. But Landis said she is excited by the young players who turned out at tryouts.
“We also have a phenomenal JV core, so our future looks very promising,” Landis said. “There are four kids on JV who could swing easily (to varsity). It was hard to make decisions for those kids. I think because of their skill and their high basketball IQs, we’re going to be able to do some really positive things.”
Bend coach Todd Ervin, whose teams have won four of the last five IMC titles and whose 2016-17 team reached the state semifinals, said Bend’s season will be dependent on how quickly younger players grow into their roles. The Lava Bears opened the season with a 46-33 win over Milwaukie and a 56-23 victory against Putnam, but Ervin said his team showed its inexperience despite the final scores.
“I think we get a little excited and a little impatient at times,” Ervin said. “So we need to be more consistent, and we need to play a little more tame ball as we get comfortable with what our teammates do, where they like the ball and where they don’t like the ball, and where to expect them to be. I think learning about each other and playing together, we’ll get better as we move forward.”
Ervin said 10 players got on the court in those early wins, which he hopes will be the case throughout the season.
“Our depth will hopefully be an advantage — we’re not really tall, and we don’t have an all-league shooter like Sophia Jackson or an all-league point guard like Tayla Wheeler,” Ervin said. “I don’t think we’ll have quite the load that those two players carried on any two players. I think it’ll be more distributed, and I think it will be distributed between more than five players. Hopefully eight or nine or maybe 10.”
The Lava Bears still have a month to sharpen up before starting conference play on Jan. 5 at Ridgeview, which is under the direction of new head coach Shan Hartford.
“We’ve got to grow in different spots and understand each other before we can really see how good we can be,” Ervin said. “So we’re trying to get better game after game, and in about three weeks we should have an indication of what things look like. Hopefully our inexperience will not feel like inexperience by the time we start league in January.”
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