Pioneers are gunning for a 12th state title
With most of last year's varsity lineup returning, the Oregon City Pioneers aim to return to supremacy in the Three Rivers League and the state of Oregon in girls basketball in 2012.
'We've been third [in the state] the last two years and we're done with that,' said Oregon City senior wing Jade Lowery. 'Our theme this year is 'Final Destination 12.' We got our first state championship in 1992 and we want to get our 12th state championship in 2012.'
The Pioneers have another goal that is no less important. Last year Clackamas ended Oregon City's run of 17 straight league championships, dethroning the Pioneers by sweeping the three-game league series between the two teams.
'That was bad,' Oregon City junior point guard Montana Walters said.
'It hurts to be the team that lost the 17-year streak,' said Oregon City junior Jenae Paine.
'We still have a bad taste in our month,' Lowery said.
'It's payback this year,' said junior post Johanna Paine. 'We're coming for them.'
Clackamas graduated some key players from last year's squad in first-team all-league post Jen Reese and first-team all-league guard Natalie Myers. But the Cavaliers could still be a formable foe. Clackamas is off to a 6-0 start in preseason and Oregon City and Clackamas were ranked third and fifth in the state respectively in a recent Class 6A coaches poll.
Oregon City has also looked good in preseason. The Pioneers are off to a 7-1 start and they've displayed tremendous depth, with 10 or more players scoring in every game.
Their lone loss was to Hawaii state champion Konawaena, and they were without their top outside shooter, Jenae Paine, when they played Konawaena.
Jenae Paine suffered a concussion in an early season win over 2011 6A quarterfinalist St. Mary's. A second-team all-league selection as a sophomore, Paine has been out of action through most of the preseason. Shortly after recovering from the concussion, she sprained an ankle.
Oregon City coach Kurt Guelsdorf said that Jenae Paine should be ready to return to the hardcourt this week.
Guelsdorf likes what he's seen to date this season.
'We're deeper than [we were] last year,' Guelsdorf said. 'We can play 11 kids pretty successfully. Our second unit is comparable to a lot of team's varsities.'
Guelsdorf says that this year's squad has had a lot more success attacking the basket.
The Pioneers do sport a lot of experience in this year's varsity lineup. Johanna Paine (6-0 post), Jenae Paine (5-8 wing) and Lowery (5-6 wing) combined for 50 points in last year's third-place final, when the Pioneers handled South Eugene 72-55.
Johanna Paine, who has started since she was a freshman, was a first-team all-league selection as a sophomore. She and Jenae were the Pioneers' top two scorers last season.
Junior Montana Walters was starting point guard last year, and senior Rachel Roberts returns as her backup.
Catelyn Preston, a 5-10 junior, was the first post off the bench as a sophomore, and 5-8 senior Marcie Lugar returns with experience at the post.
Walters scored a game high 21 points and made four assists in the St. Mary's game.
Preston (12 points) led 12 Oregon City players who put points on the scoreboard in a 79-24 win over Battle Ground.
Rounding out the roster are senior Melissa Taylor (5-10 post); juniors Chelsi Brewer (5-8 wing), Jaime Goff (6-0 post), Amber Fifield (5-8 wing), Tiani Bradford (5-8 wing) and Breanne Johnston (5-9 post); sophomore Jessica Gertz (5-9 wing); and freshman Jerusha Paine (6-1 post).
'This is the deepest team I've played on,' said Johanna Paine. 'In our last game, we had 11 of 13 score. Everybody gets in the game and everybody contributes.'
The Pioneers will find out how they stack up against the best teams in Oregon this week, when they vie in the Nike Interstate Shootout, which runs through Friday at Lakeridge High School.
'It'll be like a pre-state tournament,' said Jenae Paine. 'St. Mary's, Central Catholic, South Medford, Clackamas. All the top teams will be there.'
Three Rivers League play begins Jan. 13, when the Pioneers entertain Lake Oswego. They meet Clackamas at Clackamas on Jan. 17, and they entertain the Cavaliers on Feb. 10. Last year TRL teams played one another three times in league. This year they meet only two times in league play.