And they plan to make a run for the title
Clackamas first-year head coach Todd Lane says that Oregon City is the team to beat in Three Rivers League girls basketball this season. But he's not counting his Cavaliers out.
'Oregon City was inexperienced last year and they placed third at state,' Lane said. 'They're experienced this year, so they're going to be tough.
'They've got to be the favorites [in the TRL] because of their experience, but our whole league is going to be tough, from top to bottom. There will be no easy teams in the Three Rivers League. Any team will be capable of beating any other team on a given night…
'I think we can compete with all of the teams in league. How well we do will depend on our effort - how hard we practice and how hard we play.'
Clackamas girls have gotten off to a 6-0 start, and Lane says he likes what he's seen so far.
'They play hard and they practice hard, and that counts for a lot,' Lane said. 'We talk about playing hard for 32 minutes and they've done that - for the most part.'
'Our league's going to be a battle,' said Clackamas junior captain Shelby Vasconcellos-Mattocks. 'Every team is really good. It's going to be whoever wants it the most.'
'I think [a league championship for Clackamas] is definitely possible,' said senior captain Natasha Rowland. 'It's all about working hard.'
'And taking it one game at a time,' added Vasconcellos-Mattocks.
Vasconcellos-Mattocks likes the depth in talent on this year's squad.
'Without [6-2 all-state post] Jen Reese, we don't have the size we had last year,' she said. 'But we've got more depth. We're a complete 14-people deep.'
'Our whole team is good,' said Rowland. 'Everyone on the team can play.'
Lane has played at least 11 girls in every game this season and he's had at least eight players score in five of the Cavaliers' first six games.
Vasconcellos-Mattocks, a 6-0 post, has led the scoring, averaging 18.8 points.
Rowland (5-10 post), junior Deeshyra Thomas (5-7 point guard) and sophomore Sydney Azorr (5-9 wing) have also scored in double figures in the preseason, as the Cavaliers have defeated Hermiston (63-50), eighth-ranked Lincoln (59-50), seventh-ranked Beaverton (62-46), Centennial (64-35), Tualatin (54-36) and ninth-ranked Tigard.
Vasconcellos-Mattocks, Rowland and Thomas are the only players on this year's roster who saw much playing time on last year's Cavalier varsity team that won the TRL and advanced all the way to the state final, before yielding to Jesuit 42-39.
But the Cavaliers have reloaded with talented players up from successful jayvee and freshmen teams.
'Our freshmen and jayvee teams both won over 20 games [last season],' said Lane. 'Their only losses were to Oregon City.'
Joining Vasconcellos-Mattocks, Rowland and Thomas on this year's varsity roster are: seniors Lexie Govert (5-7 wing), Sam Gutwig (5-8 wing/post) and Malia Oswalt (5-10 post); juniors Hana Watari (5-7 point guard/wing), Jessica Pardee (5-9 post/wing), Vanessa Oakden (5-6 wing) and Hannah Stultz (5-5 wing); and sophomores Azorr (5-9 wing), Kaitlyn Reiner (5-4 point guard/wing), Courtney Cox (5-5 wing) and Erica Pagano (5-10 post).
The TRL has been tough as nails in the preseason. Through play Dec. 26 the top five teams in the six-team league had gone 28-5 against nonleague opponents.
The Cavaliers will find out how they stack up against the top teams in the state this week, when they vie in the Nike Interstate Shootout at Lakeridge High School. Their first game of the tournament was scheduled Tuesday (Dec. 27) with top-ranked South Medford.
Clackamas begins the first of two rounds of league play on Jan. 13, when the Cavaliers play host to Canby.