Portland Christian's girls team is back in the hunt for a state basketball championship after missing out on a trophy last year.

The Royals, who were second in the Class 2A tournament in 2000 and third in 2001, are 13-1 and ranked fifth in the state heading into a Northwest League showdown at No. 2 Knappa tonight.

'We have our whole team back, so we have (playoff) experience,' fifth-year coach Tom West says. 'If we can get back to the tournament, I think we'll be ready to do something.'

The Royals feature four players who regularly score in double figures: senior Caitlin Hill, junior Tiara Gunstone and sophomores Katrina Myron and Kelsey Hill, Caitlin's sister. Kelsey Hill is a 6-3 center.

West says one of the keys to the Royals' success is compatibility.

'Everyone has fun in practice, and the girls all get along,' he says. 'That's one of the things you try to focus on because you never know how your season will turn out. We started two freshmen last year, and that should have been a rebuilding year, but we won our league title. That's one reason we're optimistic this season.'

Gold Beach, which beat the Royals in the 2000 final and is the defending state champion, is ranked No. 1.

MORE HOOPS: With the second half of league games beginning tonight for PIL girls, teams will get a chance at rebounding from losses and showcasing their improving abilities, especially the teams at the bottom of the league.

First up is Madison playing host to Benson tonight. The Senators lost 77-16 at Benson in the first half of the season.

JR Moore, who left Benson last summer for a fifth year at a prep school in Massachusetts, has signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Rhode Island, which competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Moore's Worcester Academy team includes three other players who have signed to play at Division I schools next year. The academy team won 12 of its first 13 games.

Parkrose senior Mecca Asonye, who plays football and basketball, reports he's been accepted into Princeton. 'I can finally slack off,' he says. 'You don't know how long I've been waiting for that.'

NOTES: The OSAA is polling its members on, among other things, whether the football playoff bracket should change to a limited seeding plan, which is, apparently, being used at the Class 4A basketball tournaments. Under this plan, the district champions from the four most successful leagues are placed in separate quarters of the 16-team basketball tourney. Using this plan for football would have kept Metro League champion Beaverton from playing Midwestern League champion Sheldon in the second round of the state football playoffs last year. Many people thought those teams shouldn't have met until the final. É The OSAA also is looking into using a shootout to end ties in championship soccer games. The Class 4A boys final has ended in a tie twice in the past four years.

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