Ranked among the top teams in the state, the Gladiators intend to prove that they are among the best

GLADSTONE - Gladstone's girls basketball team didn't graduate a player off of last year's team that claimed its second consecutive Tri-Valley League title.

Still, the Gladiators may have their hands full in winning another league title this winter. That's because their new league, the Class 4A Capital Conference, is arguably the toughest league in the state.

Last week's Associated Press poll had three teams from the league ranked in the top four in the state, and a fourth league team (Molalla) got mention in the poll, which is put together by the state's high school sports writers.

Stayton, Cascade and Gladstone were ranked first, second and fourth respectively in the poll.

'Stayton is the defending league champion and they've got their whole team back,' said Gladstone coach Jere Applebee. 'Cascade's got four of their top six players back, including an all-state point guard (Danielle Albus). They were second [in league] last year and I think they won the league the year before.

'Stayton, Cascade and Molalla all have posts with good size.'

Applebee says that Stayton is likely the preseason favorite. But he likes his Gladiators' chances.

'It's our deepest team and the most balanced team we've had here,' said Applebee. 'This group has a different feel. They've grown up a lot. They've worked hard in the weight room to get stronger and they're playing with a lot of confidence.'

The Gladiators have certainly been impressive in early preseason games, outscoring their first five opponents by an average score of 74-41, with impressive wins over Yamhill-Carlton (65-28), Portland Christian (71-56), Seaside (87-38), Banks (91-32) and Scappoose (57-53).

Scappoose last week was ranked third in the state and the Indians placed fourth at last year's Class 3A State Tournament.

'They've got all but one kid back and they've got two 6-foot posts,' said Applebee.

Portland Christian, a Class 2A semifinalist last season, featured a 6-4 post.

'Several teams in our league also have big kids at post, so it's nice to see that we can compete against teams that are a lot bigger than we are,' said Gladstone team co-captain Annan Applebee.

Although the Gladiators didn't graduate anyone from last year's team, they are without second-team all-league senior wing Amy Skofstad, a former three-sport athlete who elected to take the winter season off.

But the Glads have gained two talented transfers from Oregon City in juniors Lisa Terry and Tawny Dasher.

Terry (5-3), who has earned the starting nod at a wing, averaged 11 points through Gladstone's first four games, and she scored a game-high 19 points in the rout of Seaside.

'We lose a little speed [with the loss of Skofstad], and Amy was an awesome defender!' said Gladstone team co-captain Jessie Jones. 'But the Oregon City girls are really helping out. They're really fast. Lisa has a great outside shot, and Lisa and Tawny are both awesome defenders! They're really aggressive on defense.'

'Defense is what wins ball games,' added Annan Applebee.

'We're deeper than last year,' said co-captain Tasha Dearborn. 'We can sub off the bench and keep up the momentum and not slow down.'

Dearborn (5-9 wing), Applebee (5-7 point guard) and Jones (5-6 wing) are all seeing their third year of starting action. Junior Shanoaleigh Roseby (5-9 post) also returns to the starting lineup.

Applebee and Dearborn were both first-team all-league selections last season; Jones was a first-team all-league selection as a sophomore. Roseby, junior Nikki Ramsey (5-6 wing) and sophomore Emily Tsugawa were honorable mention league all-star selections last season.

'We can go 10 deep without losing anything,' said coach Applebee. 'The girls love the game of basketball and they play unselfishly. They don't care who scores.'

Led by Applebee (9) and Terry (6), the Gladiators had assists on 34 of their 38 baskets in the recent game with Banks.

The Gladiators have also been a force on defense, with their opponents averaging close to 28 turnovers a game.

The Gladiators are hungry, after going 20-4 in 2005-06, their third-best season in school history.

'Our goals are another league championship, and Gill Coliseum,' said Annan Applebee. 'We want to defend our league title and get to the state tournament.'

The past two seasons, the Gladiators have come up a game shy of reaching the coliseum, dropping state playoff games to Baker last year and to Ontario the year before.

'Baker and Ontario had tall posts, so playing teams with tall posts in league should help get us ready for the playoffs,' said Annan.

'We're excited!' said Jones.

'It's our senior year,' said Annan Applebee. 'So we're ready to go.'

'We're ready to go all out,' said Dearborn.

'We're having a lot of fun!' said Jones.

The Gladiators begin league play on Wednesday, Jan. 3, when they entertain La Salle.

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