They aim to compete in a super tough TVC and get back to Gill Coliseum

by: JOHN DENNY - Returning lettermen (from left) Ryun Gibson, Sean Williams, Andrew Conway, Ryan Fowler, Trevor Browning, Austin Galvin and Handsome Smith like Gladstones chances in Class 4A high school boys basketball this season.“I think getting to Corvallis [and the Class 4A State Tournament] is a very distinct possibility again.”

So says Gladstone coach Ted Yates, in assessing his charges’ prospects in boys basketball in 2014.

“We’re ahead of where we were last year,” he said. “In fact I think we are close to where we were when we ended the season last year.”

A work in progress, the Gladiators a year ago played their best basketball late in the season, advancing to the eight-team Class 4A State Tournament through postseason wins over Cottage Grove (53-51) and Central (51-42), after going 5-5 and tying Madras for third place in the Tri-Valley Conference.

“We’re a lot more experienced,” said Gladstone senior Trevor Browning. “We’ve got seven returning lettermen, plus some new players who are stepping up to the challenge of varsity.”

“I wasn’t at all surprised [that we made the state tournament last year],” said senior Austin Galvin. “We played together as a team, just like we’re doing this year.”

“We definitely want to get back to [the state tournament],” said Browning. “We want to win league and get back to Gill [Coliseum]. Our No. 1 goal is to win state, and we feel like we have the fire power that can get us to that stage.”

“We have good depth,” said Yates. “We’ve got the kids that we can easily go ten deep in most games.”

The players new to the varsity know how to win. Last year’s Gladiator jayvee team had only three losses in 23 games.

The Gladiators have been impressive in preseason.

Heading into a Dec. 27-28 tournament at Cascade they sported a 4-1 record and they were ranked third in the state in the OSAA RPI rankings — behind top-ranked Brookings and No. 2 Henley.

They had wins over Philomath (46-45), Crook County (74-32), Henley (51-46) and Stayton (76-42).

The lone loss was in a 43-38 barnburner with Valley Catholic, a powerful Class 3A team that has also beaten La Salle this season.

Philomath lost a close game with La Salle in last year’s third-place final of the Class 4A State Tournament; Henley is ranked second in 4A in the OSAA power rankings; Valley Catholic placed fifth at last year’s Class 3A State Tournament and the Valiants are ranked No. 1 in Class 3A boys basketball this winter.

Returning lettermen from last year’s Gladiator varsity include: seniors Browning (6-0 guard), Galvin (5-11 guard), Ryun Gibson (6-5 forward), Ryan Fowler (6-0 guard/forward) and Andrew Conway (6-1 forward); and juniors Sean Williams (6-1 guard) and Handsome Smith (5-9 guard).

Browning, Gibson and Smith were starters last season. Galvin, who was slowed last year by a shoulder injury, was the first player off the bench. Browning and Gibson both gained honorable mention in the 2013 TVC league all-star balloting.

Rounding out this year’s roster are: seniors Emil Kot (6-0 guard), Chris Hauck (5-8 guard) and McClinton Stone (6-0 forward); and juniors E.J. Penn (5-10 guard), Ben Fox (6-0 guard), Andy Thompson (6-3 guard) and Justice Fridell (6-5 forward).

Gibson scored 14 points to lead all scorers in this winter’s preseason win over Philomath; Galvin scored 14 points to lead a balanced attack against Crook County; Gibson (14 points) led three players in double figures in the win over Henley. Yates put 12 players on the floor in the game with Philomath and he put at 11 players on the floor against Henley.

Browning (12 points) and Gibson (12 points) led 13 players who put points on the scoreboard in the rout of Stayton. Galvin had eight points and seven assists, as the Gladiators were a hot-handed 37-56 (66 percent) from the field. Led by Smith (4 steals), the Gladiators forced no fewer than 34 turnovers in the up-tempo game.

Yates says his Gladiators have the same M.O. that they had a year ago.

“We get up and down the floor,” Yates said. “And, if it’s a game, we press for 32 minutes.”

Yates says he expects cross-town rival La Salle and Madras to be his charges’ toughest opponents in the Tri-Valley Conference.

“I see La Salle, Madras and ourselves in the mix for the league championship,” he said.

“Estacada will also be good,” said Browning. “I think they may surprise some people. We played them in the summer and they played us really tough.”

“The key for us will be using all our players,” said Galvin. “Our bench players doing good under pressure. That’s going to be pivotal....”

The Gladiators return to the hardcourt this Friday, when they entertain Seaside. They have home games with Banks on Jan. 10 and with Sisters on Jan. 11.

League play begins Jan. 21, when the Gladiators play La Salle at La Salle.

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