The Tigers look to defend their Pacific Conference title

by: DAN BROOD - GREAT GUARD -- Tigard High School senior guard Lexi Carter (5), shown here driving past Grant's Justice West in the Tigers' first game of the season, will play college basketball at Clemson University. TIGARD — The Tigers’ hopes are high.

With good reason, it seems.

After all, the Tigard High School girls basketball team has both some talented returnees from last year’s squad in addition to some promising newcomers in the mix as it takes the court this season.

“We’re optimistic about this year,” Tigard coach Steve Naylor said. “We’ve got some good players and some great veteran leaders. We’re excited.”

Among the key returnees from last year’s Tigard team, which won the Pacific Conference title at 14-0 while going 24-6 on the season in addition to reaching the semifinal round of the Class 6A state tournament are senior guards Lexi Carter (5-foot-8) and Emilee Cincotta (5-8).

“They’re two of the best guards in the state,” Naylor said.

Last year, Carter, who has signed to play college basketball at Clemson University, was an All-Pacific Conference first-team selection. Cincotta garnered second-team all-conference honors last year.

“They’re both great players,” Naylor said. “They’re very good on both offense and defense and they can handle the ball. They can do it all.”

Tigard has another returning starter in sophomore post Elise Conroy (6-3), although the Tigers are having to get by without her in the early part of the season. Conroy suffered a badly sprained ankle in the Tigers’ final practice before its season-opening game with Grant on Dec. 4, and she has yet to play in a contest this season. She’s expected to action sometime in January.

And the Tigers are hoping for big things from her when she takes the court.

“Elise had some growing pains last year,” Naylor said. “But she’s quite an athlete. We think she’s really grown as a player.”

Junior guard Kaylie Boschma (5-8), a transfer from Yamhill-Carlton, where she was a first-team All-Cowapa League pick, could be a key newcomer for the Tigers this year.

“She’s a fantastic addition to the team,” Naylor said. “She’s strong, quick and fast and she’s also a good shooter. She hasn’t had basketball experience at this speed, yet, so she’ll keep getting better.”

Another newcomer to the Tigard varsity who could have an impact is junior guard Faithe Wantland (5-6).

“She’s stepped up and is doing great,” Naylor said. “She had a real good summer and continues to do a good job fighting for rebounds.”

Freshman guard Kylie Warren (5-7) could also play a key role.

“She’s strong and quick,” Naylor said. “She’s going to be a great one.”

In the front court, Tigard could depend a lot on junior twin sisters Stephanie King (5-9) and Jessie King (5-8).

“They’re going to get a lot of minutes,” Naylor said. “They’re both aggressive.”

Senior guard Hannah Armstead (5-8) is back after seeing a bit of varsity action last year.

“She’s one of our better zone players,” Naylor said. “She shoots well, and she’s a good defensive player.”

Tigard returns another senior in forward Ashley Holzgang (5-10).

“She’ll fight,” Naylor said. “She just battles.”

Senior guard Melissa Keenan (5-7) rounds out the Tigard varsity roster.

“I think our strength is our quickness and guard play,” Naylor said. “We don’t fear that teams will press us. Right now, our question mark is our rebounding without Elise.”

As for the Pacific Conference this season, Naylor sees plenty of competition for the top spots.

“I think it’s going to be us, Tualatin and Century,” he said. “But I don’t want to count out Hilhi. McMinnville is good and Forest Grove isn’t bad. If there’s a favorite, I’d like to think it’s us, but I don’t know without Elise. But I like our chances.”

The Tigers moved to 3-2 on the season by scoring a 52-46 win over St. Mary’s in a non-league game played Friday at Tigard High School. Cincotta had a big performance for Tigard in the win with 23 points, nine steals and six rebounds.

Boschma added 12 points and Carter had 11.

Tigard will return to action Friday when it faces Skyview, Wash., at 11:30 a.m. in a first-round game of the Nike Interstate Shootout, which will be held at Lake Oswego High School. The tournament runs through Monday.

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