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Boys basketball preview: Scappoose Indians

Scappoose plans to focus on the day-to-day, rather than let their goals get ahead of themselves

Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Scappoose senior Jacob Wendelschafer (at right) will take over the point guard duties for the Indians.It was fairly obvious coming into last season: the Indians were riding high, with full intentions of continuing their reign of terror. Scappoose had won the last two Cowapa League basketball titles, and wanted every ounce of a three-peat.

Then they lost the opener, and then the rivalry game in St. Helens. They won four thrillers at the end of January, but dropped four in a row late in the year and dampened their seeding in the postseason before a first-round exit at the hands of Cascade.

The problem? Maybe we got a bit ahead of ourselves.

“The players are starting to turn in their individual goals and their team goals and coaches have talked about league predictions and everything, and I think last year … we were too focused on trying to get the league title,” said head coach Rahim Tufts, now in his fourth season. That was our goal rather than focusing on the day-to-day stuff, so we've kinda shifted our focus this year and we're not really talking about the end goals. We're talking about the day-to-day goals and the day-to-day accomplishments. The end results will come, I think we're going to win a lot of games but it all stems from the day-to-day preparation.”

Photo Credit: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Junior Brennan McNabb is one of the better three-point shooters on the team, but is long and quick, and can get to the basket at will.The 2014-15 edition of Tribe boys' basketball has the makings of a special squad. All-league forward Chase Johnson returns after a season where he averaged 17 points 11 boards, and at 6-foot-4, Johnson is just one of several bigs the Indians will have at their disposal.

“The ball's going to be in his hands pretty often, but at the same time, teams know [about him,]” Tufts said. “I'm predicting there's going to be a lot of double teams and teams preparing for him, so we'll have to make adjustments and other guys have improved tremendously in the offseason.”

A mark of Tufts' philosophy is to win at all three levels of the program: varsity, JV and freshman. The result is a competitive and well-rounded group of players who have experience in the system that are able to bridge the gap, even when seniors leave what should be gaping holes.

One such role is at point guard, a position occupied by Taylor Loss last year.

“Jacob Wendelschafer got a lot of minutes last year in the backup point guard role, and he is poised to have a heck of a year from a leadership standpoint, from a defensive standpoint and from just guiding the team to where we want to be,” Tufts said. “He has a great pulse and a great feel for his teammates, and he can shoot it and get to the bucket.”

They'll also need to replace the scoring prowess of Mitch Davis, whose average stature didn't deter the fired-up guard from jumping into the teeth of defenses and coming out unscathed. Davis, at many times last season, was the go-to guy in late-game situations. This season, Tufts foresees offense by committee with Johnson acting as somewhat of a focal point and a way to draw the attention of opposing double teams.

“Balance” was the word Tufts chose, and it seems to fit this team well. Towering senior Ethan Marcantonio will be one of the taller players in the league at 6-foot-8, and has improved his shooting touch around the rim. Junior Brennan McNabb can get to the bucket or hit from the perimeter, as can Wendeschafer and senior Cody Fazio.

Defensively, the Indians should cause fits because of their height in the post and their length up and down the floor. In addition to Marcantonio's size, Scappoose has three other players listed at 6-foot-3 and above: Johnson, and juniors Ian Donaldson and Robert Lohman.

“Those guys all get after it and take pride in their defense, and then Jake Ford was one of the best defensive players in the league as a junior, and we don't even have him yet,” Tufts said. “As a collective defensive effort, I think we're going to be a lot better than we were last year.”

Ford, who has spent the entire preseason thus far in sandals and a sling on his arm, broke his collar bone in the Indians' quarterfinal victory over Cascade in the 4A football playoffs, but is expected to make his return after just a handful of games. Instant energy off the bench last season, Ford should be able to make an immediate impact on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Regardless of personnel, the strategy is simple: solid defense, crash the boards and run opposing teams into the ground.

“There's going to be games where we don't shoot it well,” Tufts said. “That's the game of basketball, but we're always going to defend and we're going to rebound. If we can limit teams' second-chance opportunities, we're going to have success. Because we're going to be able to rebound it so well, we'll go and we'll get buckets.”