The Falcons are loaded with talent and experience
The La Salle Falcons should be the team to beat in Tri-Valley Conference boys basketball in 2013.
The Falcons are loaded with talent and they sported a 5-1 record through play Dec. 19, their only loss a 61-51 setback at the hands of No. 2-ranked Cascade. They kept pace with Cascade for three quarters, after spotting the Cougars an 18-6 advantage to start the game.
Through play Dec. 19, La Salle had wins over Class 3A power Valley Catholic (56-48), Elmira (60-54), Stayton (69-30), Banks (72-44) and over Franklin (80-35).
The Falcons return four starters from last years varsity that came within a game of reaching the Class 4A State Tournament, and the veterans are joined by a group of talented players up from a jayvee team that went 22-2.
I think that last year, with [2012 graduates] Daniel Lashbaugh and Justin Stangel, we were better on paper, La Salle coach Jared Curtiss said. But I think this years team is a better team. We play better together; we make that extra pass.
Curtiss added, I think the kids goal is to win league, get to state and win a trophy. Were deep, and I think its doable.
Curtiss says he sees his Falcons and Molalla as the preseason favorites, although he cautions, both Gladstone or Madras are capable of beating us.
Seniors Alex Soberanis (5-8, point guard), Jacob McGraw (6-5 guard/forward), Valentin Gashongore (6-1 guard) and Sean Hays (6-8 post) return to start for the Falcons.
Just like last year, we have a ton of talent, Hays said. But I think well get better results. The team chemistry is a lot better. We play together as a team. Its more like were playing for we, not me, like last year.
McGraw, senior letterman Ian Johnson (5-11 guard) and Hays have headed up the Falcons scoring in early preseason, averaging 16, 13 and 11 points respectively. But the Falcons have also displayed depth, with eight or more players scoring in most games.
Were 10 deep, Hays said. Weve got 10 kids who could start for any 4A team in the state....
McGraw, who has signed with Air Force, has been shooting over 50 percent from the field.
Johnson averaged 63 percent field goal shooting, while cashing in six times from 3-point land, in La Salles first four games.
Hays has been a force on the inside, making close to 60 percent of his shots from the floor, while averaging eight rebounds and two blocked shots a game.
Led by Soberanis (3.3 apg), La Salles team is averaging 16 assists an outing.
The Falcons also return senior lettermen Mark Holenstein (6-1 guard) and Colin Meisner (5-10 guard). Meisner will be out of action until late January because of a football injury.
La Salle also has a transfer from Central in 6-5 sophomore guard Reece Wible.
Moving up from last years successful jayvee team are seniors Jake Maes (5-10 guard, point guard) and Austin Swift (6-3 post), juniors Luke Kolln (6-0 guard) and Thomas Callahan (6-5 post), and sophomores Brandon Falk (6-4 post) and Keeston Smith (6-4 post).
Smith has been sharing a starting guard position with Gashongore.
Weve got to take it a game at a time, but our main focus is [making the state tournament at] Gill Coliseum, Soberanis said. Thats what were working for.
Our main goal is getting to Gill, but we also want to win league, Hays said. Except for Molalla, we should beat every team in the league easily, if we play to our ability.... We lost to Molalla by 3 in the summer. I missed that game because of summer baseball and football.
They play really physical and they are very well coached, Soberanis said of Molalla.
Curtiss said he got his first indication that the Falcons might be successful this season last summer.
We played a lot of 6A and 5A teams and we went 36-6 over the summer, Curtiss said. We were 9-1 against 6A and 5A teams. We lost to Tualatin by four, and we were missing McGraw and Hays in that game.
Among the 6A teams they defeated in summer ball were Clackamas, David Douglas, Barlow, Reynolds and Centennial.
When we beat Clackamas [in summer basketball], that was like the starting point of knowing we could do something big, said McGraw, who transferred to La Salle from Clackamas last season.
Asked the key to accomplishing their goal of reaching Gill Coliseum, Hays said, Hard work. And it all starts in practice.
The Falcons vie in a tournament at Sisters Dec. 27-30.
They host Scappoose on Jan. 4, Seaside on Jan. 8 and Astoria on Jan. 11 in their final tuneups for their Jan. 15 Tri-Valley Conference opener at Gladstone.