Interior defense, rebounding to be crucial for Wildcats

by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - The Wilsonville boys basketball team has won a state trophy in each of the last five seasons. Senior wing Zach Malvar (3), shown during a league game at Milwaukie last year, leads the Wildcats in their quest for another playoff run.There isn’t a way the Wilsonville boys basketball team can win a sixth-straight state trophy ... or is there?

After what happened last season — the Wildcats took fourth place in the Class 5A tournament despite taking fourth in their own league — coach Chris Roche isn’t ruling out the possibility of another playoff run.

But he doesn’t want to define the season on those terms.

“I am hopeful we will come as close to possible as reaching our potential, that we will compete like mad, but at the same time have a blast together and share some memories that last a lifetime,” said Roche, who is entering his 12th year at the helm. “I would like to see us emerge as leaders, play unselfishly and be great teammates with sincere desire and focus. The rest of the stuff — league championships, going to state, winning trophies — those things will take care of themselves in time.

“To me, they are sort of built into our overarching goal of reaching our potential. I am much more concerned with that battle. We are in the trenches fighting for every possible inch of progress on that every day right now. The other stuff — we’ll deal with that whenever and if it becomes relevant. At the same time, we certainly would welcome any challenge, and we seek to earn them all.”

Those challenges are all part of the process for Wilsonville, which will attempt to build on its phenomenal run over the last five years. It went 121-24 overall during that span while earning five top-five state finishes in a row.

What the Wildcats were able to accomplish last year, which was unexpected by many, was due in part to the efforts of a graduated senior class that included Dylan Livesay, Ryan Walsh, Tanner Shipley and Andrew Phillis. There are just two seniors — Zach Malvar and Tyler Martin — on this year’s roster.

“We are very young, and as a result on the leaner side of the physical spectrum,” Roche said. “It is a fun, great group of kids. We have some talented guys, and we have the potential — when we move the ball and play inside-out — to be a really good shooting team. We have a number of guys who can make shots. We can do that.

“But the keys for us in a more macro sense almost surely will be how well we can defend the paint and rebound against bigger, stronger teams, and then also how well leadership emerges on our team. If we can do those things well, we have a chance to be pretty competitive many nights, I think. If we don’t take those key toughness-sort-of-things to heart, we probably will struggle with consistency and be more up-and-down than we would like to be ideally.”

Offensively, several players will have expanded roles. Malvar figures to play a larger part after serving as the team’s chief perimeter defender last season. Sophomore point guard Sam Bullock, who started most of last season as a freshman, is primed for another solid season. And sophomore wing Tyler Hieb — one of the team’s most improved players, according to Roche — is poised to have a significant impact as well.

“They are talented offensive players, all of them,” Roche said. “Our keys on offense will be ball movement and attacking the paint efficiently. If we are willing and able to do those things, I think all of these guys will have expanded roles and opportunities to shine. We also cannot be too worried about who is scoring how many points any given night. If we can play unselfishly, move the ball, patiently wait our individual turn but attack, attack, attack, I think you will see that all of these guys can do things. We have a group of guys that can make some plays on offense when we play the right way.”

Other potential contributors for the Wildcats include Martin, 6-foot-4 sophomore post Jack McNulty, sophomore guard Kaden Ogles, junior wing Nate Christensen, junior post Thomas Walter and freshman Zach Reichle.

“We have a couple of really talented freshmen, and they will get whatever opportunities our staff feels they earn as we move along,” Roche said. “And these are not your everyday type of freshmen — these are potentially impact guys. Time will tell us, I suppose, if they fit with our varsity team, where they fit, when they fit, how they fit.  But if they are ready and they earn it, and we believe they can help make us better, they will play.”

Roche emphasized the importance of interior defense and attention to detail on the glass as his team sets out on its 2013-14 campaign. It will face three 4A teams to the start the preseason, host the Wilsonville Invitational Tournament in late December and travel to Coeur d’Alene for a tournament in early January.

Wilsonville, which has earned at least a share of four of the last five NWOC titles, will begin league play on the road Jan. 14 against defending conference champion Milwaukie.

“Defending the paint and rebounding as a team are right at the top of the list of things we have to prove we can do against good, physical teams,” Roche said. “If we can rebound and defend the paint consistently, we might surprise some folks. If we struggle in this area, it will be hard to be consistently competitive.”




Coach: Chris Roche (12th year)

Last year: 20-9 (8-6 in the NWOC); placed fourth at the Class 5A championships

Key players: Zach Malvar, Tyler Martin, Sam Bullock, Tyler Hieb, Jack McNulty

Key losses: Dylan Livesay, Ryan Walsh, Tanner Shipley, Andrew Phillis

Outlook: Interior defense and rebounding will be keys for the skilled but youthful Wilsonville boys basketball team, which won its fifth-straight state trophy last season. Returning starter Zach Malvar leads a group that also includes sophomore point guard Sam Bullock and sophomore wing Tyler Hieb.



12/7            YAMHILL-CARLTON                        7 p.m.

12/13            Scappoose                                    7:15 p.m.

12/21            SIUSLAW                                    3 p.m.

12/26            TOURNAMENT                        TBD

12/27            TOURNAMENT                        TBD

12.28            TOURNAMENT                        TBD

1/1            Coeur d’Alene                                    TBD

1/2            Coeur d’Alene                                    TBD

1/3            Coeur d’Alene                                    TBD

1/8            ESTACADA                                    7:15 p.m.

1/14            Milwaukie *                                    7:15 p.m.

1/17            Sandy *                                    7:15 p.m.

1/21            LIBERTY *                                    7:15 p.m.

1/24            St. Helens *                                    7:15 p.m.

1/28            Parkrose *                                    7:15 p.m.

1/31            SHERWOOD *                                    7:15 p.m.

2/4            MILWAUKIE *                        7:15 p.m.

2/7            Putnam *                                    7:15 p.m.

2/11            SANDY *                                    7:15 p.m.

2/14            ST. HELENS *                                    7:15 p.m.

2/18            Liberty *                                    7:15 p.m.

2/20            PARKROSE *                                    7:15 p.m.

2/25            Sherwood *                                    7:15 p.m.

2/28            PUTNAM *                                    7:15 p.m.

* Northwest Oregon Conference game

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