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Hillsboro boys hoping to turn the corner soon


New coach undertakes long rebuilding process for Hillsboro boys hoops

Hillsboro boys basketball coach Ryan Svenson began his coaching and teaching career at Scappoose. As an assistant football coach, Svenson was confident in Scappoose’s ability to dominate the competition.

“We had won two straight state titles (2000 and 2001) and we were really good the third year,” Svenson said.

With his confidence running high, Svenson put his foot in his mouth during a conversation with an older Scappoose assistant coach.by: STAFF PHOTO BY CHASE ALLGOOD - Hillsboro sophomore Anton Dean gets off a jump shot during last week's game against Forest Grove.

“If we don’t win the state this year then it’s a total waste,” Svenson remembers saying.

The older coach looked at Svenson in complete shock and asked him if he really believed that the only way to determine success was by being the absolute best team in the state.

Svenson suddenly realized that winning a state title was not the only way that Scappoose could have a good season. As it turned out, Scappoose did win a third consecutive state championship in 2002. But, the lesson that Svenson learned during his conversation with the older coach stuck with him.

“I took something from that conversation and realized that you can’t make your only goals about wins and losses or winning the league title or whatever,” Svenson said. “You have to have some things in there that are a little bit easier for you to control because sometimes wins and losses are out of your control.

“That’s where we’re focusing right now: continue to improve, continue to develop and prepare for every game like we’re playing to win it.”

That lesson is being put to the test this season at Hilhi. The Spartans are young, they are inexperienced, and after dropping their Pacific Conference opener to Forest Grove on last Friday, Hillsboro is only 1-10 on the season.

“If you look at our guys coming back who played last year, we only had about 15-20 minutes of experience coming back,” Svenson said. “So we were really brand new to begin with. Then, earlier in the year, we had a lot of injuries to some of our key guys so it took us a while to get going and come together as a group.”

While a 1-10 record looks bad on paper, Svenson says that had Hillsboro gotten a few breaks here and there, the Spartans could look a lot better.

“We had opportunities to win,” Svenson said. “We were 1-9 in the pre-season, but you could make the case that we had chances to win more. We came down to the last minute of three or four other games. We very easily could’ve been 4-6 or 5-5 if a few other things had gone our way.”

Svenson is also happy that the Spartans have been improving throughout the season.

“We’re getting better. We’re playing hard. When you look at the first half scores of our games, we’ve been super competitive in just about every game,” he said. “We’ve got to do a little better job of maintaining that through the second half and give ourselves a chance to win a few more games.

“Obviously, you’re never excited about being 1-10, but in the big picture, I like the path that we’re on and the direction that we’re heading.”

Improvement is especially important when you consider how young the team is. The Spartans have just two seniors on the team, three sophomores, a freshman and seven juniors.

“Last year there were two other would-have-been seniors who played on the JV team that saw the writing on the wall and decided not to continue playing,” Svenson said. “It’s only my second year here and from what I’ve been told it’s been a small group.”

Hillsboro has been led this season by senior Jack Merrill, junior Tyler Fernstrom and sophomore Anton Dean.

“Jack Merrill is our best defender and we put him on the other team’s best guy,” Svenson said. “Jack didn’t play last year, but played as a sophomore and decided to come back this year and has led by example and his work ethic and maturity are really good.

“Tyler Fernstrom has been our most consistent scorer. Anton Dean has been one of our better playmakers.”

While Merrill, Fernstrom and Dean are trying to hold down the fort, Svenson said that Hillsboro rarely passes the eye-test when they line up against opposing teams.

“If you look at us in pre-game, we don’t match up physically with a lot of teams,” Svenson said.

Because of that, Svenson’s goal for the Spartans is to try to outwork opponents and use teamwork to their advantage.

“We’re not going to physically overmatch people but we’re always going to play hard and play well together,” Svenson said.

With the Pacific Conference schedule in front of them, most people would predict that the Spartans are going to take their share of lumps the rest of the season. However, for Svenson, the conversation he had years ago is still playing in his head. For their coach, the Spartans’ season will be more about process than results.

“I’ve always talked with all of my teams that it’s about the process,” Svenson said. “We want to handle our process the right way. I’m a big believer that if your process is good then the results are going to take care of themselves.

“It requires me to be patient because I want to win games but I’ve also got to keep in mind that these guys are being put in situations that they’ve never been put in and learning how to handle those situations. It takes time.

“I’m optimistic that there are wins out there for us in league. But with our inexperience, I don’t want to make a ‘We’re going to go 10-4 in league’ prediction. But I do anticipate us continuing to play really, really hard. As we continue to play at that level effort-wise, we’re going to get better at the basketball stuff and that’s going to lead to wins.”