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Timberwolves look to improve all the time

Girls basketball: Tualatin will put a young, hard-working team on the court
by: DAN BROOD SUPER SENIOR — Lexsi Searle (right) should be a key player for the Tualatin High School girls basketball team this season.

TUALATIN - For the Tualatin High School girls basketball team, it's all about improvement.

Improvement every week.

Improvement every game.

Improvement every practice.

'We're trying to put things together,' Tualatin coach Todd Jukkala said. 'We're trying to focus on getting better every week. And we do work hard and we do have the desire to improve. We just need to keep improving every day.'

Tualatin will likely put a young team on the court this year, with just a handful of returnees from last year's Timberwolf squad that had an overall record of 16-10 while placing third in the final Pacific Conference standings at 10-4.

'This is a good group of hard workers,' Jukkala said. 'We hope to put it all together.'

Tualatin has three seniors on this year's squad.

Among them is senior post Taryn O'Neill (5-foot-11), who is beginning her third season on the Tualatin varsity.

'She's one of our better post defenders,' Jukkala said. 'She'll give us experience, rebounding and defense, and she's getting better on offense.'

Senior wing Lexsi Searle (5-8) returns for her second season on the Timberwolf varsity.

'She's improved a lot,' Jukkala said. 'She's put in a lot of work on her game - her ball handling and her on-ball defense. I think she's also better on offense.'

Senior wing Hanna Thompson (5-7) is back in action after missing her junior season due to a shoulder injury. She reinjured her shoulder at the end of summer, but was ready to go at the first day of tryouts.

'I'm so proud of her,' Jukkala said. 'She worked so hard to get back. She gives us good leadership and she's a great kid. She's working hard every day.'

Senior Sydney Mendezona (5-10) returns as Tualatin's starting point guard.

'She does a great job handling the ball and we're going to ask her to do a little more on offense this year,' Jukkala said.

Tualatin's other senior is guard Angelica Angeles (5-6), who played at the junior varsity level last year.

'She worked hard on her game in the offseason and she can provide good minutes,' Jukkala said.

The team has two juniors on the roster, including a returning starter in wing Britta Hall (5-6), who was an honorable mention all-league pick last year.

'She's very aggressive and has added a good mix to her offensive game,' Jukkala said. 'And she's working hard to improve on defense.'

The other junior is wing Baylee Lyle (5-6), who played for the JV team last year.

'She's a good athlete and a tremendous defender on the ball,' Jukkala said. 'She can also take it to the basket and run the floor.'

Among the group of sophomores on the team is Savannah Heugly (5-10), who will play at post.

'She's a good athlete and does a good job in the post,' Jukkala said.

Sophomore post Jasmine Miller (5-11) saw a bit of varsity action last year as a freshman.

'We're seeing things out of her that we want to see,' Jukkala said. 'She's a strong kid with a good base in the post. She's young and improving.'

Tualatin has another sophomore post in Audrey DePaepe (5-10).

'She has a motor - that 'go factor,'' Jukkala said. 'She just keeps going and going.'

Tualatin's other sophomore is point guard Megan Landmark (5-5).

'She's working hard on getting better,' Jukkala said. 'Defense is her strength.'

Hard work looks to be one of the main traits of the Wolves this year.

'We do work hard, and the girls have the desire to improve,' Jukkala said.

As for the Pacific Conference this year, Jukkala sees Tigard and Glencoe as the favorites.

'Tigard is the team you have to knock off the mountain,' he said. 'Glencoe will be very good. They're tough. As for the rest of the league, and the No. 3 spot, I think anyone can get it. Hopefully, we'll be in there, but we know we have a lot of work to do.'

The Wolves moved to 1-4 on the early season with a 54-36 loss to Clackamas last Thursday.

Tualatin will be back in action Tuesday when it starts play at the Nike Interstate Shootout behind held at Lakeridge High School.