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Buffs primed to defend Tri-Valley title

Coach expecting big things from squad

by: Pioneer file photo - Madras’ Jhaylen Yeahquo blocks the shot of a Crook County player last season. Yeahquo, a senior, is expected to be one of the Buffs’ big players this season. Madras opens the season Friday against Crook County in Madras.

As the reigning Tri-Valley Conference boys basketball champions, the Madras White Buffalos have a target firmly planted on their back.
   Last season's team was senior-laden, including Tri-Valley Conference player of the year Bobby Ahern, now playing at Pacific University, and head coach Allen Hair has some replacing to do.
   In all, six seniors off last year's squad graduated, but Hair thinks he'll be able to reload and make another run at the conference championship with the team he has now.
   "We're definitely going to have some guys have to step up," Hair said. "But we're a pretty balanced team, and that's going to be an advantage for us."
   While the Buffs aren't going to outsize anyone, they're going to take the same approach the program is known for - dictate the tempo and make people play faster than they want to.
   "We're going to get out and run; that's our style," Hair said. "We're pretty interchangeable when it comes to personnel, and we've got some guys that can score 15-20 points on any given night."
   The Buffs are going to lean on a number of different players. Hair said his team could be about nine or 10 deep once everyone gets into the swing of things, but one of his guys is going to have to pour in a big year to get the Buffs where they want to go.
   "Jhaylen Yeahquo has to have a player of the year type season if we are going to be what I expect us to be," Hair said.
   Yeahquo, a 6-foot-3 senior guard/forward, is expected to shoulder quite a bit of the load from a couple different positions, but Hair also said guys like senior Steele Haugen, along with sophomores Devin Wolfe and Jered Pichette are going to have to contribute as well.
   Two players are coming off injuries suffered during football season, seniors Rodney Mitchell and Triston Smith, but Hair said Mitchell is close to getting back to participating in full practices. Smith, meanwhile, will be out another couple weeks with a foot injury.
   Pichette and Mitchell are expected to direct the offense from the point guard spot, along with Bryson Spino, but after that, Hair feels he can mix and match his lineup with just about any combination of players.
   "Jered is a natural point guard, and Rodney can do it, too," Hair said. "After that, it's just a matter of filling spots."
   The addition of senior Aaron Phillips adds more depth to the team, and Hair said he could play in either the frontcourt or the backcourt.
   The big question, Hair said, is if his team will be able to execute in the half court, especially defensively. Along with the fastbreak, run-out style of offense the Buffs play, they will still have to be able to function in set plays.
   "We want to get as much transition as possible, but we're going to have to play solid man defense," Hair said.
   The Buffs kick off the season Friday against Crook County, a team Hair said they would love to get a little redemption against since they beat them last year.
   "The loss to them last year really hurt our rating," Hair said, referring to the OSAA RPI that is used to seed playoff teams. "We set a goal to be in the top eight in the RPI this season, and in order to do that, we've got to beat Crook County."
   The Buffs finished 18-7 overall last year and lost in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs to Sisters. They won the Tri-Valley Conference title with a 9-1 record.