Coach Newkirk expects continued improvement in 2013-14

The upstart Oregon City Pioneers ran into the real deal in Class 6A powerhouse Grant in last week’s first round of the Class 6A state high school boys basketball playoffs, and the result was a 67-39 loss.

The Generals entered the Feb. 26 contest ranked fourth in the OSAA power rankings and averaging better than 74 points an outing. They boasted a 19-4 record, their only losses coming in close games with top-ranked Lake Oswego (63-57), seventh-ranked Sheldon (81-78), their cross-town rival Lincoln (76-57) and Washington state power Henry Foss (69-61).

Oregon City (12-13 overall, 1-9 in the Three Rivers League), under first-year head coach Aaron Newkirk, was ranked 32nd, making the contest a mismatch from the outset.

The Generals wasted no time taking charge, going on an 11-0 run en route to a 17-4 first-quarter advantage.

“They’re a very good team,” Newkirk said. “They beat West Linn early in the season.... They beat us with their athleticism....”

Newkirk said that the Generals dominated the backboards and set the game at a faster tempo than he would have liked.

“The tempo was not in our favor and they out-rebounded us 22-10 in the first half,” Newkirk said.

Bryce Canda, a 6-4 senior guard, headed the onslaught for the Generals, scoring 17 points and pounding the backboards for 18 rebounds.

Deiondre Bird, a 6-6 junior wing, and 6-1 senior wing Julian Hanlon-Austin added 12 and 11 points respectively, as ten Grant players contributed points to the winning tally.

Junior post Brad Martin (13 points, 9 rebounds) was the only Oregon City player in double digits in scoring.

The Generals went on to beat 13th-ranked Roseburg 48-36 in Friday’s second round of the Class 6A playoffs, earning a berth in the eight-team Class 6A State Tournament. They meet West Linn today at 3:15 p.m. in the quarterfinals.

Looking back on the past season, Newkirk said, “We’re real proud of our seniors. They won more games this year than the seniors did in the last two seasons combined.”

The Pioneers will lose five seniors to graduation — Valentino Polk, Nolan Muckenthaler, Cody Hole, Dominik Mackinnon and T.T. Munoz.

Polk, Muckenthaler and Hole averaged scoring 25 points between them. Polk (10 points a game, 3 assists) was the team’s leading scorer.

But the cupboard is not left bare.

“We had seven players play starting minutes and four of them were underclassmen — Austin DeWitz, Hunter Knighton, Brad Martin and Trevon Bradford,” Newkirk said. “Another underclassman, Ryan Markuson, played significant minutes.”

“We’ll be younger [next year], but we’ll be more experienced, and we’ll be better....,” Newkirk said. “Tino [Polk] was the most points we had coming back from the previous season, at 5 points a game. Hunter averaged 9 points this year. Brad averaged 8 points, and he was our leading rebounder. Trevon averaged 6 points....”

The Pioneers’ fortunes will be bolstered next season by the addition of several talented players up from successful jayvee and freshmen teams.

Oregon City jayvees went 15-8 over the past season, while the Pioneer freshmen went 17-5.

“The freshmen did it without their three best players,” Newkirk said. “They are one of the best groups I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

Bradford, a 5-9 freshman guard, played varsity all season. Briggs Young, another 5-9 freshman, played point guard on the jayvee team; Skyler Canty, a 6-3 freshman wing, also played for the jayvee.

Newkirk said that 5-9 guard Tyler Sheldon scored 27 points in an Oregon City freshmen upset of Lake Oswego.

Newkirk said the Pioneers will hold a golf tournament at Stone Creek Golf Club on May 18 as their major fundraiser.

“We’re going to travel to Alaska for a tournament right after Christmas, and we’re going to California this summer....,” Newkirk observed.

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