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Mustangs eye top 3 in the NW Oregon Conference

Also: Kingsmen expect to be better

The Milwaukie Mustangs expect to field one of the stronger girls basketball teams in the Northwest Oregon Conference in 2012.

'If we can stay healthy, I like our chances in league,' said Milwaukie coach Kevin McElroy. 'But we've got to stay healthy. We want to get out in transition and run, and we can't afford anyone getting hurt.'

The Mustangs have a good nucleus returning from last year. Their 12-player varsity roster includes five players with starting experience from last year - seniors Kendal Kirschenman (5-11 guard/forward) and Nicole Hannifan (6-0 forward/post), and juniors Alexis Noren (5-9 guard), Lorissa Martine (5-8 guard) and April Meads (5-9 guard/forward).

Senior Ameneh Ameripour (5-6 guard) and junior Emily Downs (5-10 forward/post) also return with varsity experience.

Hannifan and Noren were second-team all-league selections in 2011. Meads made the NWOC's third all-star unit and Martine merited honorable mention in the all-star balloting.

Rounding out the Mustang roster are: juniors Hana Whisman (5-5 guard) and Taylor Cunningham (5-8 forward/post), and sophomores Kendall Gronvold (5-5 guard) and Shelby Enevoldsen (5-10 forward/post).

'There's a lot more balance in the league this year and I think the league is wide open,' McElroy said. 'I think that anybody in the league will be able to beat anybody on a given night, if they play well.'

The Mustangs (11-13) placed fourth in the eight-team NWOC last year, finishing back of Wilsonville (24-4, 14-0), Sherwood (19-7, 12-2) and Liberty (17-8, 10-4).

Wilsonville and Sherwood met in last year's Class 5A semifinals, and the two teams were ranked seventh and 14th in the state heading into this season. Both teams were hurt by graduation.

'We finished fourth last year and I would hope that we finish better than fourth,' said McElroy.

Milwaukie got off to a 4-2 start in early preseason, defeating Centennial (49-35), Jefferson (69-30), McMinnville (44-41) and Hillsboro (56-30), while coming up short in games with Class 6A Lakeridge (74-61) and with Class 6A Forest Grove (56-45).

The Mustangs begin league play on Friday, Jan. 6, when they play host to St. Helens (1-4).

The Rex Putnam Kingsmen have had some success in preseason and the Kingsmen are hopeful the success will continue in NWOC play.

Seniors Emily Lauder (5-4 guard), Ana Medero (5-4 point guard), Anna Rau (5-9 post) and Dylana McGill (5-8 guard) have been starting for the Kingsmen, along with sophomore Megan Atkinson (6-2 post).

Medero and McGill started for Putnam last year. Rau started for Putnam as a freshman, but did not play her sophomore or junior years.

Atkinson is a transfer from St. Mary's.

Rounding out the Kingsmen roster are: juniors Brice Birdsall (5-5 guard), Kaitlynn D'Auvergne (5-11 post) and Hannah Ziegler 95-9 post); and sophomores Kelsea Baton (5-7 guard) and Ali Schooley (5-4 point guard).

D'Auvergne, Ziegler and Baton lettered last year.

Through play last week the Kingsmen sported a 3-4 record, with wins over Cleveland (49-39), Wilson (56-29) and Madison (60-36), and losses to Class 6A Aloha (55-39), Class 6A Reynolds (46-44), Class 6A David Douglas (54-39) and Hood River (42-29).

Lauder, who played jayvee basketball, and Medero have been the offensive leaders for Putnam this season.

The Kingsmen get their final tuneup for league play this week, when they compete in a tournament at Silverton. They have an alumni game scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday.

League play begins on Friday, Jan. 6, with Putnam hosting Sandy.