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La Salle Prep reloads

The Falcons are young and inexperienced, but they've got talent

The names have changed, they've got a new head coach, and the team is very young.

But first-year head coach Kevin Ruble says he wouldn't be surprised if the La Salle Falcons turn out to be one of the top teams in the Tri-Valley Conference in 2012.

'Their work ethic is unbelievable, and they battle,' Ruble said. 'They play together and they are competitors. They don't like to lose.'

Although most of the players on this year's varsity roster are new to varsity level play, they're accustomed to winning. Ruble says last year's La Salle freshmen and junior varsity teams both went undefeated.

La Salle has only two seniors on this year's 11-player varsity roster and Ruble has been going with an all underclassmen starting lineup, a lineup that includes three sophomores and a freshman.

They've had their share of success so far in preseason, going 5-3, with wins over De La Salle (69-38), Elmira (69-54), Central (51-39), Stayton (52-45) and Yamhill-Carlton (39-36). The losses have come at the hands of Valley Catholic (50-40), top-ranked Cascade (82-53) and third-ranked Banks (63-33).

The Falcons were without posts Andrea Novak and Allison Carlson in last week's game with Cascade, but they still gave the defending state champions a run for their money, trailing by just two points, 35-33, at halftime.

'We ran out of gas,' Ruble observed.

Sophomore Sterling Swift (5-8 wing) and junior Natalie Schlechter (5-6 wing) are the only experienced players from last year's varsity that advanced all the way to Class 4A state final.

Swift and Schlechter have been starting this season, along with sophomores Allison Ilg (5-4 points guard) and Andrea Novak (5-10 post), and freshman Makenzie Cook (5-6 wing).

Swift and Cook have been the top scorers, averaging 13.6 and 10 points respectively.

Novak has averaged 8.1 rebounds; Schlechter has averaged 6.9 points and 2.9 assists. Ilg has been the defensive leader.

Rounding out this year's roster are: seniors Allison Carlson (5-8 post) and Alex Gottsch (5-10 post), junior Ellie Mulvaney (5-5 wing); and sophomores Courtney Crain (5-4 point guard), Savanna Gann (5-5 wing) and Sameya Maurice (5-8 post).

'For us to be successful, we have to force the tempo,' Ruble said. 'We're so small, if we're forced to play half-court, we get pounded….'

Ruble said of the Falcons' prospects in league: 'Madras is everybody's favorite. But I really feel like, based on the way we've been playing, we could be battling for that second and third spot in league.'

The Falcons are competing in a tournament at Stayton today through Friday, Dec. 30.

They have until Jan. 17 to gear up for their league opener, a home game with Molalla.