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Saints' Super Sophomores

THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Mt. Hood CC basketball coach John Hawley addresses his womens team during a timeout. The squad went through the bulk of its season with only five players available, but matched its win total from the last three years combined. Some team will be celebrating a championship when the Northwest Community College basketball tournament concludes Sunday night. The Mt. Hood women’s team won’t be in Everett, Wash., for those games, but a pack of Saints sophomores have plenty to celebrate after surviving a season like none other.

The injury bug hit the team early in the year and before Christmas it became clear that the team would have head to the finish line with the bare-bone minimum of a five-player lineup. That meant grueling 40-minute game nights, short-handed practice sessions and some heart-breaking losses along the way.

“You can choose to endure it, or you can let it destroy you,” Saints’ coach John Hawley said. “They’ve showed up every day ready to fight through it. It’s been great to see how they’ve pulled together.”

In the end, the Saints finished with a 9-18 (.333) record, matching their win total from the last three seasons combined. Mt. Hood also beat out Portland CC to pick themselves up off the South Region floor for the first time in three years, setting the stage for a turnaround in the program.

Hawley prefers a fast-paced style that sees his players covering the full court, but with no reserves on the bench the Saints could only afford to play that way in spurts. Their only rest came during timeouts and in the locker room at halftime.

“We would have loved to press more, it was something we were having success with early in the year, but how much do you push when you’re playing only with five?,” Hawley said. “The girls would lay it on the line and go for it in the fourth quarter. We were the best conditioned team on the court all year.”

It’s not only the prospect of draining your player’s fuel tanks, but also playing a more conservative style to avoid foul trouble. For the most part, the Saints were able to do that in a difficult situation, but several times they ended games a player short.

“I like to see my players gamble, but you can’t take some of those risks if it means picking up a garbage foul,” Hawley said.

In a game against Clark College, the Saints put together a monumental comeback only to be left playing 4-on-5 when it was time to find the tying bucket in the final seconds. The Penguins forced a turnover and escaped with a win.

“I was frustrated for them, seeing them work so hard and not be able to finish some of those close games,” Hawley said. “But that’s what happens when you are out their for all 40 minutes.”

The Saints finished 4-12 in the South, but were only blown out twice against a Lane squad (29-1) that had done that to most everyone it faced. The Titans are one of the favorites to claim the Northwest crown this weekend. Six of Mt. Hood’s league losses came by six points or less.

Hawley was asked to describe each of his Super Sophomores.

n Lacey Weddle — ‘Go Getter.’ She filled the stat sheet averaging 13.3 points, 2.9 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game.

n Jesse Morris — ‘Leader.’ The point guard was an expert at picking her moments. Knowing when to amp up the pressure to create a game-changing turnover and when to walk the ball up the floor to give her teammates a chance to catch their breath. She put up 12.0 points per game and averaged almost two steals per game.

n Delanee Martin — ‘3-point shooter.’ More than 60 percent of her baskets came from behind the arc, as she led the Saints by averaging 15 points per game.

n Alexis Imbler — ‘Utility.’ She had to work hard for her points, doing the bulk of her scoring on second-chance buckets often over the top of taller opponents. She led the Saints with almost 10 rebounds per game.

n Madison Weaver — ‘Effort.’ She contributed in all facets of the game, putting up 8.8 points and 7.4 rebounds a force inside for a team that often found itself outsized — David taking on Goliath on the boards.

The season is finished, but Hawley still sees this crew in the gym on a regular basis, running themselves through drills and refining their skills in hopes of landing at a four-year college heading into April’s signing season.

Meanwhile, Hawley has been hitting the high school gyms hard on the lookout for new talent to fill his roster — a step the Saints missed last off-season with Hawley being brought on after the recruiting cycle had finished.

“I’ve been out to a lot of ball games, getting Mt. Hood out there,” Hawley said. “I hope to show recruits that they have the opportunity to be successful here — to be able to buy into something together.”

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