The Mt. Hood mens team relies on a whole new lineup to defend the schools South Region title from a year ago

Mt. Hood Community College men’s basketball coach Geoff Gibor is working with a whole new deck of cards this season after seeing a bunch of his aces land on different tables this winter. Thus is the life of a junior college coach where players have a two-year lifespan.

The Saints claimed the South Region title last season and finished with a 24-8 record. Colby Mitchell is the only returning player from that roster after averaging just under seven points per game.

He has picked up the scoring load early this season, connecting on 16 of 30 (.533) shots at last week’s tip-off tournament in Vancouver, putting up a team-high 25 points in the team’s finale — a three-point loss to Lower Columbia.

“He got into foul trouble in the first half in each of those games, but still had a good opening weekend,” Gibor said. “He’ a talented player, who is extremely tough and competitive.”

Among the rookies, 6-foot-8 Mac Johnson out of Spokane has made an impact as an active player inside. He shared the team lead with 17 points in the Saints’ 88-73 opening win over Walla Walla.

“He never stops going, which is a big attribute for somebody of his size,” Gibor said.

The backcourt is anchored by Landon Rushton out of Olympia, along with Barlow High’s Brock Otis — the only east county player in this year’s lineup.

“We’ll still look to get the ball inside a lot, but we have a pretty athletic and quick group this year,” Gibor said. “With so many new faces it will take some time to build that chemistry, but it’s an unselfish group that is willing to get the ball to the open guy.”

The Saints played a weekend doubleheader in Walla Walla before getting to their home opener at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, against Wenatchee Valley. That marks Mt. Hood’s only home game before the South Region schedule gets under way after the new year.

“We play a really tough preseason to get us ready and battle tested heading into league,” Gibor said.

Among the early-season challenges are games at reigning East Region champ Spokane and at West champion Clark.

The Mt. Hood women’s team is filled with local prospects, as almost half of the roster hails from East County prep programs. Guard Danica Lewis out of Sandy earned a spot in the starting lineup during the team’s opening tournament in Clackamas last weekend.

Other local players are Alyssa Seever, Leslie Capps and Chanel Celis out of Barlow, Mercedes Smelser out of David Douglas and 3-point dead-eye Sadie Jenks out of 1A Open Door Academy in Troutdale.

The Saints finished 1-2 at the Clackamas Holiday Classic, scoring their only win against an alumni team. Whitney Warren was the team’s top scoring threat, putting up almost 13 points per game, while Hannah Mocaby also had a double-digit average.

Mt. Hood tied for sixth in the eight-team South Region last season, finishing with an 8-17 record.

Women’s coach Jocelyn McIntyre could not be reached in time for this preview.

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