Warriors boast depth, young White Tigers looking to improve
As they have in years past, Crook County Christian boys basketball fans will have to log on the miles if they want to see their team play somewhere other than home.
Their nearest competitor, South Wasco, lies a 'mere' 81 miles away, while their furthest, Helix, is a five hour drive to the northeast.
This year, though, that extra travel may be worth it.
With four returning starters, the Warriors look stacked.
Point guard Sam Delay leads an offense that is expected to get most of its points from Tyler Hershey, Corey Pennington and Mike Estes.
Hershey tallied 38 points last weekend in two games for Crook County Christian.
According to head coach Kurt Clements, however, the strength of this year's team will lie in its defense.
"We have some unproven scorers," he said. "But some tenacious defense."
The Warriors mustered only one conference win last season in a league loaded with seniors. With many of these leaders gone to graduation, Clements believes the gate has been opened for his now experienced squad.
"We'd like to reach the postseason," he said. "We played everyone pretty even last season. There weren't any blowouts."
Early play so far endorses Clements' optimism. After three games, the Warriors find themselves a respectable 2-1.
"Every day after practice we sit down and talk about the season," said assistant coach Mike Wendel. "This year we developed a motto. Baker City or bust."
The 1A state championships are scheduled for March 1-4 this season, in Baker City.
Made up of players from both Central Christian in Redmond and Crook County Christian, the White Tigers set some specific goals for the season this past Saturday.
"We want to hold opponents to under forty points and limit our turnovers to less than 12," said co-coach Lon Austin.
"We also want to improve communication during games and work on getting more people involved in our offense."
According to the stat book, Jannelle Johnson and Vanessa Wilson stand out as the White Tigers' leaders. Johnson is averaging 12 rebounds a game while Wilson has been far away the team's scoring leader. In a loss last weekend, Wilson accounted for 27 of Central Christian's 31 points.
Austin believes a strength of this year's team, however, is their strong team unity.
"We work together well," he said. "We don't have any egos."
The Wolves return zero starters from a squad that went 8-16 last season and have only one returning letterwinner.
Central Christian opens league play Dec. 18th with a home match against Wheeler County.