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Four-team race shaping up in tough Metro

Beaverton, Jesuit, Southridge and Westview will all compete for top honors in 2012 season
by: Miles Vance AIMING HIGH — Beaverton junior guard Alexis Montgomery (here at the 2011 Class 6A state tournament) and her teammates are aiming for a Metro League title and another state tournament berth in 2012.

The rest of the Metro League had been working for years to get around the juggernaut that was Southridge.

The Skyhawks, after all, won five big-school state championships between 2005-10 and reshaped the landscape of Oregon girls basketball in the process.

The Metro got its wish in 2011. Southridge coach Mike Meek left to coach at George Fox, and the Skyhawks' injury-riddled lineup struggled through a 5-5 league campaign and suffered a second-round loss in the state playoffs.

In its place, however, Jesuit stepped to the fore, won the Metro title and rolled on to take a first-ever state championship under first-year coach Jason Lowery.

Now, the Crusaders are back to try it again, Beaverton returns in search of a second straight state tournament berth, Southridge looks revived under new coach Matt Humphreys and Westview seems well-armed to challenge everyone foolish enough to step in its way.

'Once again, I think we have the best league in the state,' Lowery said. 'It's wide open.'

'Jesuit is the reigning league champ, as well as state champion, and I expect them to mount a strong title defense,' said Aloha coach Poeko Waiwaiole. But 'Westview was the only team in Oregon to beat Jesuit last season and has one of the best players in the state. Beaverton made the state tournament last season and returns a lot of seasoned and dynamic players … and Southridge is still deep and talented and I think able to compete with anyone.'

Indeed, none of the coaches among the four teams picked as most likely to contend was willing to write off any of the others as potential favorites.

'Jesuit is the reigning league champ and will be … until someone beats them,' Humphreys said. And 'Westview and Beaverton have great clubs and will compete for the league title as well.'

'I think Jesuit will be there. I know (Lowery) can coach and I know they have two really talented guards,' said first-year Westview coach Lindsay Strothers. 'And Beaverton is good, and Southridge will be good too.'

Following are previews of the Metro League's varsity girls basketball teams.

ALOHA

ALOHA - It ain't easy making inroads in the toughest league in the state, but that's just the road Aloha wants to travel in 2012.

The Warriors, after going 2-8 and placing fifth in 2011, are determined to be better this season, and they believe they have the talent to make that happen.

'I expect us to compete with every team in our league for 32 minutes,' said second-year Aloha coach Poeko Waiwaiole. 'I believe that if we play to our strengths, we can pose match-up problems against any team we play.'

This year's Warrior crew will be led by 6-foot-1 senior post Summer Young, 5-6 senior wing Eno Archibong and 5-8 junior guard Katie Newton, along with two other varsity returners, 5-0 sophomore guard Cassidy McDonald and 5-11 sophomore post Makenzie Johnson.

'I expect (Young, Archibong and Newton's) experience and ability to lead this team,' Waiwaiole said. And 'I expect that … McDonald and Johnson will also make significant contributions this year.'

That said, Waiwaiole believes that all 10 of his team's varsity players will see significant court time this season, and he believes that all 10 will play important roles.

'All 10 will contribute. The next five are all good players and will be on the floor too,' Waiwaiole said.

That next group includes 5-8 senior Miranda Hensley, 6-0 freshman Noheaililani Waiwaiole, 5-7 senior Jamie Wirth, 5-11 senior Kimberly Long, and 5-9 senior Annel Mendoza.

'Annel Mendoza and Noheaililani Waiwaiole are both exciting additions to this year's team,' Poeko Waiwaiole said.

BEAVERTON

BEAVERTON - The 2011 season was one for the record books at Beaverton.

The Beavers battled to a runner-up finish in Metro League, then battled their way into the state tournament for the first time since 2002.

Now, they're ready for more of the same.

'The league is up for grabs,' said Beaverton coach Jay Ego. 'The teams that stay healthy and have good team chemistry will be at the top in February.'

This year's Beaver crew will be led by third-year starter Alexis Montgomery (a 5-10 junior guard who won second-team all-Metro honors a year ago), and by fellow returners Danielle Hartzog (a 5-7 sophomore guard), Morgan Rennekamp (a 5-7 senior guard), Justine Rennekamp (a 5-7 senior guard), and by Sarah Meuwissen (a 5-8 senior guard).

Montgomery 'has great ability to score and is a poised point guard,' Ego said, adding that Meuwissen 'is a strong team leader and will be counted on to lead the team this year.'

Hartzog, Ego added, 'is a very athletic player at both ends of the floor, is a strong defender and has great ability to score,' while the Rennekamps are 'both very athletic, and strong defenders and rebounders.'

Also due for varsity time this year are 6-1 junior forward Annalise Beshears, 5-6 senior guard Leia Walton, 5-3 freshman guard Alli Mueller, 6-1 freshman forward Dagny MacConnell, 5-8 freshman guard Gigi Stoll, and 5-11 sophomore forward Shaunta Jackson.

JESUIT

BEAVERTON - Jesuit's girls basketball team flew higher and further than ever before in 2011.

The Crusaders won the Metro League title, and while that was nothing new, they followed up with an unbeaten playoff run that resulted in the school's first-ever girls basketball championship.

Now comes the challenge for 2012 - how to make it all happen again.

'It will be a battle every night,' said Jesuit coach Jason Lowery. 'How quickly we re-learn what our program is about - defending and rebounding - will ultimately determine how we do this year.'

While Jesuit must cope with the loss of Class 6A Player of the Year Elizabeth Brenner and several other talented 2011 graduates, there's plenty of raw material on hand, led by 5-foot-7 senior guard Rachel Mendelsohn (a first-team all-Metro pick in 2011), 5-9 senior guard Jean Parker (another 2011 first-teamer) and 5-10 senior wing Brianna Dixon.

All three 'gained valuable experience last year as starters and will be relied on heavily to lead by example,' Lowery said. 'Jean is a versatile scorer and hard worker with a contagious spirit, Rachel puts so much pressure on the defense with her aggressiveness and penetration, and Bri is one of the best defenders and rebounders in the league.'

Also back with varsity experience are 5-9 senior wing Sierra Arlauskas, 5-10 senior forward Katie O'Donnell, and 5-10 junior wing Sophie LeRoux, while top newcomers are 6-0 sophomore forward Lauren Glick and 6-3 freshman post Tarea Green.

The rest of the lineup also includes 5-5 junior guard Natalie Wiggins, 5-6 senior guard Taryn Thompson, 5-8 sophomore wing Emily Allen, and 6-0 junior post Mariah Gibbs.

SOUTHRIDGE

BEAVERTON - Southridge seems to have all the pieces ready for 2012.

Experience? Southridge has it. Depth? The Skyhawks have that too. Tradition? Like few other schools in the state.

Just as important, however, the Skyhawks are hungry after an injury-riddled 2011 that saw them miss the state tournament for just the third time in nine seasons.

'I think we will be very competitive in a tough league,' said first-year coach Matt Humphreys, previously head coach at Glencoe from 2007-11. 'I think there are a few teams that can win the league title this year and we are one of them.'

This year's Skyhawks will be led by 6-foot-2 senior post Jordyn Peacock (a first-team all-Metro pick in 2011) and by 5-9 junior guard Tupu Loo.

Peacock 'has a huge presence on the court both offensively and defensively. She will make it tough on opponents to get good inside looks and put pressure on teams with her ability to post up and hit the outside shot,' Humphreys said, adding that 'Loo has come on as an assertive point guard and scorer.'

Also back with experience are 5-6 junior point Tiffany Backman, 5-9 junior guard Hannah Rose, 5-9 junior guard Kylie Dummer, and 5-11 junior post Kelli Derrah.

'Hannah Rose, Kylie Dummer, Tiffany Backman and Kelli Derrah are developing as a nice compliments to both Jordyn and Tupu in inside-outside play,' Humphreys said. 'The key to our success is going to be balance.'

New to the varsity level this year are 6-0 junior post Amanda Hansen, 5-11 junior post Marisa Hamilton, 5-10 junior post Tiare Miles, 5-9 sophomore guard Dayna Carlson, 5-7 sophomore guard Rochelle Cochrane, and 5-6 freshmen guard Makenna Bell.

SUNSET

CEDAR MILL - Sunset knows it is going to have to fight for everything it can get in 2012.

And the Apollos know they'll have to be at their best almost every night if they hope to improve on a difficult 2011 season that saw the team go winless in Metro League play.

'We will need everyone to contribute to have any chance to finish higher than last season,' said Sunset's second-year coach Mike McNeal. 'Our key will be how quickly we mature. We are still young (and have) no true superstars.'

That said, the cupboard isn't completely bare at Sunset. The Apollos bring back one all-leaguer in 5-foot-8 senior wing Maddie Fey (she was an honorable mention all-Metro League pick in 2011) and four other players with varsity experience from a year ago.

That group includes 5-8 sophomore wing Makayla Alton, 5-5 senior wing Kristen Jondahl, 5-8 senior wing Jessie Wallace, and 5-10 senior post Anna Barlow.

'Maddie Fey and Jessie Wallace will lead the team, and we should get some great help from Makayla Alton, who has shown great progress so far this season,' McNeal said. 'All four seniors will be seeing a lot of playing time this season. They have a year of experience from last season.'

Newcomers to the Sunset varsity lineup this year will be 5-10 freshman post Natalie Stroup, 5-6 junior wing Samantha Erwin, 5-8 sophomore wing Natalie Valant, 6-0 sophomore post Megan DeMots, and 6-1 sophomore post Kendall Brock.

WESTVIEW

ROCK CREEK - Westview is ready.

Ready to battle the Metro League's best, ready to challenge for a league title, and ready for a chance to get to the Class 6A state tournament.

'From what the other coaches say, we should be in contention for one of the (automatic) playoff berths,' said first-year coach Lindsay Strothers, a two-time state championship coach at St. Mary's, who has also coached at USC, Chapman College and Cal-State Northridge, and currently runs The Basketball Institute. 'We really want to win the league.'

The Wildcats look ready to accomplish all of those goals, with the most returning all-league players in the league, a group led by 6-foot-1 sophomore post/wing Jaime Nared (a first-team all-Metro pick in 2011), 5-1 junior guard Toni Doroha (a second-teamer in 2011) and 5-6 junior point/wing Delanie Parry (an honorable mention pick).

'Every college in the country is pounding on (Nared's) door. She blocks shots, she scores, she rebounds and she leads the team in practice every day,' Strothers said, adding that Doroha has 'impressed with her speed, ball handling ability, knowledge and ability to hit the 'three.''

Also back with varsity experience are 5-8 senior wing Emily Uhl, 6-0 junior post/wing Makenzie Vandentop, 5-8 junior wing Bridgett Eby and 6-0 junior post/wing Sarah Curl.

Strothers is confident his team can score, and if the Cats can defend, he's equally confident about its ability to win.

'If we score 80 points a game, we'll be in the playoffs,' Strothers said. 'And we need to not give up easy baskets, no easy backdoors and no easy transition baskets.'

Also due for varsity time are 5-11 sophomore wing Dana Bentz, 5-11 sophomore wing Hanna Garrity, 5-9 freshman wing Alia Mahuna, 5-5 junior wing Maria Garcia, 5-9 sophomore wing Taylor Harden, and 5-6 sophomore wing Olivia Williams.