Although Wilson and Cleveland are the logical favorites in PIL 5A girls basketball, the Madison Senators are hoping to at least make things interesting in their third season under coach Erica Spencer.
"We're a lot better," Spencer says.
The Senators went into the Christmas break with a 2-4 record (Wilson was 4-3, Cleveland and Roosevelt were 2-5 through Thursday).
Madison led about all the way in its last outing, a 53-42 victory over visiting Hood River Valley on Dec. 20.
Still, Spencer wasn't entirely pleased.
"Hood River has a slower style than us, and we kind of got sucked into that," she says. "But we put the game away in the fourth quarter."
Madison also won 56-54 at David Douglas on Dec. 10.
Losses have come to 6A Lakeridge, Newberg and Sprague and 5A Woodburn in the Dec. 4 season opener.
The Senators' goal is to win out their final three non-league games against Fort Vancouver (Jan. 2 at Madison), North Salem (Jan. 3 at Madison, KBPS 1450 AM) and Columbia Christian (Jan. 4 at Columbia Christian).
Three games in nights -- and Spencer wants the Senators to bring their energy.
"We're very athletic, and we try to use that," she says. "We will push you full-court."
The style preference stems perhaps from Spencer's days as a player at Jefferson High, where she was a standout guard, earning all-state honors as a junior and senior and All-America mention that led her to USC.
Now 36, she "learned a lot" coaching a few years ago under Michael Bontemps at Jefferson, and has been trying to incorporate at Madison some of what the Democrats did successfully in that era.
"We definitely play a Jefferson style," she says.
Spencer has a bunch of multisport athletes who have worked on their basketball games in spring, summer and fall leagues.
"We should be near the top of our league this season," she says. "Turnovers were one thing that hurt us in the games we lost, and in some games we just missed free throws. So we're still learning how to win.
"And we're pretty young. We lost only one senior from last year but have only one senior (6-0 Helen Kavapalu), and we're using a couple of freshmen (5-9 Alaygza Portis and 5-5 Saquana Peterson)."
Junior guard Tamara Thompson is leading the Senators in scoring this season, and Madison has been relying a lot of returning point guard Daphne Kawamoto, a 5-4 sophomore.
"She started last year and learned a lot," Spencer says. "She's more aggressive and is taking more shots and becoming more of a leader of the team."
Combo guard Fartun Osman, a 5-5 sophomore, "hit some big shots against Hood River to push our lead to double figures," Spencer says.
Madison's PIL 5A season begins Jan. 7 with a home game against Wilson.