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Valley Catholic adds a new coach and a bunch of talent too

BEAVERTON — Valley Catholic was one of the best teams from one of the best leagues in one of the best years for Class 3A boys basketball in the state last year.

by: MILES VANCE - FLYING HIGH - Valley Catholic junior Canaan Sellers returns after winning all-league honors for the Valiants in 2012.This year, the Valiants just want to be No. 1.

Valley Catholic, coming off back-to-back sixth-place finishes at the Class 3A state tournament, looks well-heeled to do just that, thanks to a roster that includes seven returners who played in the 2012 tournament, as well as talented transfer Gabe Taylor.

That said, playing in the Lewis & Clark League, the Valiants know it won’t be easy. The L&C sent all three of its 2012 co-champions (Valley Catholic, Rainier and Portland Adventist) on to the final eight at the state tournament.

“Our league is very balanced from top to bottom, and with some difficult travel involved, any road win will be huge,” said first-year coach Joel Sobotka, a former head coach at Portland State who spent the past six seasons as an assistant in the men’s program at the University of Portland. “The first key to having a successful league season and contending for a league championship includes establishing a strong tradition of winning on your home court. But championship teams are also able to go on the road and win games.”

This year’s VC crew will be led by a trio of captains — 5-foot-10 senior guard Liam Cassidy, 6-0 junior guard/forward Carter Buuck and Taylor, a 6-7 junior forward who transferred from Newberg — as well as by 5-11 junior guard Jarrett Gray and its lone returning all-leaguer, 6-1 junior guard/forward Canaan Sellers.

Taylor won first-team all-league honors in the Pacific Conference last year after averaging 21 points and six rebounds per game.

“Cassidy and Buuck bring tremendous leadership to the program,” Sobotka said. “Buuck is a leader and a winner and brings a competitive toughness that is critical to the success of our program, (while) Taylor brings a unique skill set for a player of his size, and his versatility will be a great resource on both ends of the floor.”

The roster will also include experienced returners in 5-8 senior guard Jordan Runstein, 5-11 sophomore guard Kazuma Lane, 6-0 sophomore guard/forward Tysen Prunty and 6-1 junior post John Tate, and more talent in 6-7 junior post Alex Butz. Also due for varsity time will be 6-3 senior post Carlos Catibayan, 6-1 sophomore post David Baglai, 5-10 sophomore guard JD Menkens, and 6-2 sophomore post Drew Vanderzanden.

“Having a new coach and some new faces on the roster, we will continue to improve as a basketball team as the season goes on and look to be playing our best basketball in February and March,” Sobotka said. We “will need to utilize our depth and commitment to playing hard, as well as take care of the basketball on offense and be an effective rebounding team.”

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