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Damascus ready to rev its engine

A veteran group of quick-strike players keeps the Eagles in contention in the Valley 10

The Damascus Christian boys basketball team looks to repeat as Valley 10 champs this winter behind a core group of returning players that has head coach Terry Calhoun ready to press the gas pedal.

The Eagles are looking to a change of pace after losing post players Kaleb Easterbrooks (graduation) and Austin Forrar (transfer to Barlow), while returning senior point guard Hunter Straub to distribute the ball to a collection of shooters capable of filling it up from the perimeter.

“We don't have much height, so we'll be looking to change our style of play,” Calhoun said. “We have enough depth to push the pace of play, and it's been fun practicing for a different style of game.”

Calhoun expects to be able to bring a constant flow of scorers off the bench behind a jayvee squad that put up 20 wins in 2014-15. He looks to mimic the system used by NCAA Division III power Grinnell College (Iowa), which sends in shifts of players similar to what you'd see at a hockey rink.

“They are the leading the nation in scoring, and we're trying to borrow some things from them,” Calhoun said.

Straub will be at the controls for the third straight season after finishing as the runner-up in the Valley 10 MVP voting last year.

“He gets us into our offense and handles pressure well,” Calhoun said. “He worries about setting up his teammates more than himself.”

The Eagles return starters in senior Ben Shields and juniors Silas Marvin and Seth Murphy.

“Silas can shoot the 3, and he's big and strong enough to get shots off inside, too. People will have to double team him,” Calhoun said. “A lot of kids react on defense and end up a step slow, but Ben anticipates and has his hands on the ball all the time.”

The Eagles also bring in Ryan Patrick, who led last year's jayvee team in scoring as a rookie. Junior Gabe Coe started for the team during a summer season that saw Damascus take on a collection of top-level schools out of Washington.

Damascus opens the season Wednesday, Dec. 2, against Horizon Christian in a special game played at the Moda Center. Teams sold Trailblazers tickets for the chance to play in the NBA stadium.

“It's created a lot of excitement among the kids,” Calhoun said.

The Eagles are playing in a depleted Valley 10 that is down to only six schools this year with Portland Lutheran closing its doors and Life Christian moving to the 2A Northwest League. As a result, Damascus has a loaded out-of-conference schedule with games against reigning 1A champ Country Christian, along with semifinalists Horizon and Siletz Valley.

“You want to be challenged and play against good teams that are going to give you that competition,” Calhoun said. “If you're good enough to get to Baker City, you'll get there.”

Columbia Christian, last year's Valley 10 runner-up, looks to be the Eagles' main challenge after absorbing several key cogs from the disbanded Portland Lutheran program. Damascus won all three meetings between the schools last year, but each of those victories was by six points or less.

Email: dball@theoutlookonline.com.