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Don't count Gladstone out in girls hoops

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They're young, but they've got talent


JOHN DENNY - Gladstone team captains (left to right) Sophia Hollingsworth, Jessica Petersen and Madi Mott say they believe that an inexperienced Gladstone girls basketball team can contend for the Tri-Valley Conference title again in 2016.They’ve lost three starters, including their top two players, from last year’s team that was one of the most successful in school history. And there’s only one senior on the team.

But that doesn’t mean that Gladstone won’t be successful in high school girls basketball this year.

The Gladiators are without graduates Molly Webster and Mikaela Simac. The awesome twosome a year ago led the Gladiators to a 24-4 season, an undefeated league season and the fourth-place trophy at the Class 4A State Tournament. It was only the third state-tournament trophy in school history and the second-most wins in a season by a Gladstone girls basketball team.

Webster (offense) and Simac (defense) were named Tri-Valley Conference “players of the year” and they left Gladstone as the all-time single-season and career school offensive and defensive record holders. Webster last season averaged 19.9 points a game; Simac averaged 5.4 steals and she typically drew the assignment of guarding the top offensive player on the opposing team.

There are a lot of new faces on this year’s team, with only four players returning who saw much action a year ago — senior Jessica Petersen (5-8 guard), juniors Sophia Hollingsworth (6-1 post) and Madi Mott (5-10 forward), and sophomore Grace Campbell (5-9 wing).

Still, the Gladiators have high expectations.

“Our main goal is to win league,” said Petersen, who is team co-captain, with Hollingsworth and Mott.

“I think we can get back [to the state tournament],” said Mott.

“I think we can,” said Petersen.

“Especially if we continue improving and learn to work together,” said Hollingsworth.

“I think we’re playing more as a team than we ever have since I’ve been here,” said Petersen, who is in her fourth season playing on varsity. “We’ve got a lot of individual talent and I’ve noticed we work really well together.”

The Gladiators have given some of the top teams in the state a run for their money, only to fade down the stretch. They’ve gone 5-6 in their first 11 preseason games. But five of the losses came at the hands of teams ranked in the top 10 in the state, and the sixth loss was in a close game with 11th-ranked Stayton.

They’ve met Tri-Valley Conference favorite Molalla twice in preseason tournaments, and both games with the Indians were barnburners until the fourth quarter. In a 57-44 loss to the fourth-ranked Indians, it was a 36-36 tie heading into the fourth quarter, and they led the Indians heading into the fourth quarter of a 51-50 loss.

“It was mental,” Hollingsworth said of the Gladiators’ struggles in the fourth quarter of the games with the Indians. “They’re experienced and we aren’t, and it showed.”

“When it comes to the fourth quarter of games, we need to keep our foot to the pedal and keep driving to the basket on the offensive end,” said Mott.

The Gladiators have demonstrated a lot more depth on offense than last season, when Webster carried most of the load. They had six different players lead their scoring in their first 10 games. They’ve had nine players score in six games and at least six players score in every game.

Petersen (8.3 ppg), Campbell (7.9 ppg), Mott (7.1 ppg) and Hollingsworth (6.2 ppg) were the top point-getters through Gladstone’s first 11 games.

Junior Megan Fox, a 5-8 small forward, and Campbell tied for high-point honors in a 61-42 Dec. 28 win over Newport, each with 13 points.

Junior Allyson Paullin, a 5-7 forward, Mott and Campbell scored 10 points apiece to lead the way in a 63-23 rout of Hudson’s Bay on Dec. 18.

Others on this year’s varsity roster include: juniors Megan Kuhn (5-4 guard), Jillian Sharp (5-6 guard), Grace Chappell (5-11 forward) and Kinzi McLeod (5-6 forward); and sophomores Cameron Cronin (5-5 guard), Shaye Pinner (5-11 forward) and Emily Clinkscales (5-8 forward).

Sharp has been starting, along with Petersen, Mott, Hollingsworth and Campbell.

In comparing this year’s team to last year’s, Gladstone coach Pat Scott said the team has more balanced scoring and they have more of an inside approach on offense, instead of relying a lot on the perimeter game.

The Gladiators were impressive last Friday, when they handled Tillamook for the second time this season, upending the Cheesemakers 48-26, after winning 56-49 in the earlier contest, which was played at Tillamook on Dec. 11.

Petersen (16 points) led 10 players who put points on the scoreboard last Friday. She was 6-of-11 from the field — with two 3-point baskets. The Gladiators had nine different players make assists in the game and eight players had steals.

The Gladiators close out the preseason on Friday, Jan. 15, when they play host to sixth-ranked Banks (9-3).

They begin their league season next Tuesday, Jan. 19, when they entertain Crook County (2-9). Their final game of the league season is Feb. 23, at Molalla (9-2).