Boys basketball: Sherwood, pushing the ball and playing tough defense, looks to soar
by: DAN BROOD, DONOVAN ON THE DRIVE — Sherwood senior Ian Donovan, shown here in a game earlier this season, is one of the top returnees for the Bowmen this season.

SHERWOOD - Heading into the 2007-08 season, the players on the Sherwood boys basketball team envisioned themselves as the Golden State Warriors, running and gunning their way to wins.

Bowmen coach Brian Burke was thinking more along the lines of the defense-minded San Antonio Spurs.

'They told me 'But the Spurs are boring to watch,'' said Burke, noting it might not be flashy but the approach has earned San Antonio three of the past five NBA titles.

It took some early setbacks to reach a compromise, but what emerged was an effective mesh of the two styles upon understanding being the Spurs on defense allows them to be the Warriors on offense.

Following a 1-3 start, due in part to a late start by football players in the playoffs, Sherwood has won five of six entering its Northwest Oregon Conference opener at St. Helens on Jan. 11.

'We started poorly on defense so we had to refocus a little,' Burke said. 'I think the guys are figuring out that if we defend first, then we can get out and run. It's a lot harder to run after a make.'

After allowing 59 points per game through four games, the Bowmen have dropped that figure nearly 10 points in last six, while their scoring average increased eight points per game.

'The first few games, I was surprised by our lack of defensive intensity,' Burke said. 'The guys came in expecting to outshoot people. The last eight years we've been strong defensively. They took it for granted.'

Refocusing on Sherwood's tradition of defense has spurred positive results on both sides of the court - and the scoreboard.

'They're getting it now,' Burke said. 'As painful as it was to go through that 1-3 start, I'm kind of glad we got that out of the way.'

Fueled by strong perimeter play, Sherwood attacks the basket with senior point guards Travis Lutes and Ian Donovan, freeing shooters Connor Rumpf, a senior wing, and junior wing Colin Wester.

'We have athletes that can make things happen,' Burke said. 'We have several guys we can turn to for outside shooting and a couple that create opportunities off the drive.'

Rumpf has led the Bowmen in scoring in half of their games, averaging 14.8 points per game. A sharpshooter behind the three-point arc, the 6-foot-4 wing has added a dimension to his game this season.

'Connor's probably one of the best shooters I've coached,' Burke said. 'This year he's doing better at putting the ball on the floor. He's not just a spot-up shooter.'

Donovan (12.4 points per game) and Wester (16.8 ppg.) each have paced Sherwood's scoring in three games.

Wester, who's steal and layin at the buzzer gave Sherwood its first win 66-64 over Springfield on Dec. 7, missed the next four games with an injury, but returned for last week's Summit Tournament.

His return added another dimension with the 6-foot-3 Lutes (9.9 ppg.) and 6-foot Donovan freeing up outside shots off inside penetration. Lutes, a third team all-league selection last season, Donovan and Rumpf are the only Bowmen that saw significant varsity playing time last year.

'When Travis and Ian are going to the basket, I feel good things can happen if we can distribute the ball,' Burke said.

For all its offensive firepower, which also includes sophomore wing Jonny Howard off the bench, the key for Burke is how well the Bowmen set that up by limiting turnovers and playing good defense.

'If we can learn how to do that, we should be pretty good,' he said.

Integral to the defensive effort is 6-foot-2 wing/post Kole Krieger, a senior Burke described as 'hard-nosed and tough.'

'Put him on anybody and he can defend them,' Burke said. 'He defends and rebounds so well.'

Krieger will bang inside with a rotation of posts that include seniors Jordi Tabert (6-2), Elliot Loucks (6-3) and Chad Miller (6-3), and junior Chase Thorson (6-2).

'They do a lot of good things,' Burke said. 'We need to make them more of a threat to score.'

A continued commitment to defense and limiting turnovers will be key to the Bowmen returning to the playoffs after earning the NWOC No. 4 seed last year.

'In our league, every night will be a tough game,' Burke said. 'The team that does the little things well will be the winner.'

Burke tabbed Century, which returns the NWOC's top two players in Chehalis Tapscott and Cameron McCaffrey, as 'definitely the team to beat.'. No. 8-ranked Hillsboro and No. 5 Wilsonville also are top-10 teams in the latest Coaches Poll.

'Hillsboro is always tough and always seems to replenish,' Burke said. 'Wilsonville returns a lot of experience. Beyond that, it will be very, very tight. There's not much of a difference between seventh in the league and first or second.'

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