Lions bring back much of last year's squad

by: JOHN BREWINGTON - St. Helens Coach Jerry Allen directs players during practice last week at St. Helens High. The Lions open the season at Scappoose Wednesday.The St. Helens Lions’ second-year Coach Jerry Allen feels he has the makings of a decent team this season and they are far ahead of where they started last year.

The Lions lost one starter to graduation, and have some others with eligibility problems, but most of the team were juniors or sophomores last season and most are back.

“Everybody that is back knows me, knows the expectations, and knows they have the opportunity to be pretty good this year,” Allen said.

Allen said the team had been conditioning hard and playing hard during practice, but it will take some games to determine who is going to provide leadership.

“I appreciate the fact that most of the team is upperclassmen,” Allen said. “That makes things a lot easier now. Now it’s their turn. It’s time to have some fun and have some success. The team plays well together and my guys share the ball.”

The coach said that he would miss the toughness departed senior Brandon Underwood gave the team last year.

“I’m not sure if we have the guy that has the toughness he provided to step up, take the big shot, and hit it. We have some trying to step into that role. He was the guy that wanted the ball, and we may be missing that guy with that kind of courage, toughness and heart that is willing to step up,” Allen said.

The Lions have some above average height with three or four guys around 6-feet, 4-inches—including Corey West, Nathan Hunter, and Gage Bumgardner. Everyone else is an inch or two below that—Nick Dummer, Tanner Long, Cody Beisley, Jake Ramiskey, and Cody Galvin.

Allen says the Northwest Oregon Conference is as strong as ever this season. Milwaukie has reloaded from the team that took second in the 5A state tournament last season. Allen expects Sherwood to be tough with a 6-9 post and a couple of returning players. Sandy, Wilsonville, and Liberty also present challenges.

“It’s going to be a dogfight every night and then some,” Allen said. “It’s one of the toughest leagues in the state from top to bottom. All the coaches are competitive...with one another. I know all the coaches and we’re all friends and we all want to beat each other.”

Allen said the Lions started the season quite a bit ahead of last year, so now they are working on moving to another level.

“We’re absolutely chomping at the bit to get started,” Allen added. “The first thing is to get to state playing the way I want them to play.”

Getting the team up to speed will be the focus of preseason and the Lions have a heady schedule.

Play starts this Wednesday at Scappoose with an endowment game. The Indians made the 4A state playoffs last season, while St. Helens was eliminated in the play-in round.

Friday the Lions have their first home game, hosting The Dalles-Wahtonka. The boys’ game is preceded by a varsity girls game.

After that the Lions are on the road to Hillsboro Dec. 4 and McMinnville Dec. 7. They host Aloha Dec. 11 and travel to Wilson on Dec. 13. Gresham visits on Dec. 18.

St. Helens ends preseason with the three-game Barlow Tournament on Dec. 27-29. They face 6A Westview in their first game. League play begins Jan. 8 at Liberty.

“I’ve known the head coach of Barlow for 15-20 years and he’s a good one,” “We used to coach against each other when I was at Franklin. It’ll be a tough tournament.”

At any rate, the Lions figure to be a factor in the NWOC this season. Their task will be to pull off some upsets and put themselves in the top 24 in the power rankings.

Allen thinks they can do it and wants them to have a little fun along the way.

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