A senior-dominated lineup should make the Pioneers tough to beat in 2012-13

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon City senior Jenae Paine pushes the pace in the Pioneers season-opener with Milwaukie. Paine is one of three third-year starters in the Pioneer lineup.With a sour taste still in their mouths from a disappointing fourth-place finish at last year’s Class 6A State Tournament, the athletes on Oregon City’s girls basketball team aim to go all the way this winter.

“No matter what year, [winning a state championship] is always our goal,” said Oregon City senior co-captain Montana Walters.

“But this year it means a lot more, because it’s our last go-around,” said Oregon City senior Johanna Paine. “This is my fourth year on varsity and we haven’t won one yet. We’ve got eleven seniors on the team and we don’t want to be known as the class that didn’t get [a state title].”

“It was really hard [losing to West Linn in the quarterfinals and not winning the title last season],” Walters said. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. It was the worst feeling — a feeling I never want to experience again in my life. It’s given us added motivation this year.”

“It’s showing up in the way we practice, the way we do drills,” Paine said. “We’re a senior dominated team and we want it a lot more than last year’s team did....”

“The team this year is a lot closer,” Walters said. “We care about each other more than any team I’ve ever been on. We’re less selfish....

“If we do win state, it’ll be because we’ve done it for each other and because we’ve done it together.”

The Pioneers were the dominant girls basketball team in the state from 1992 through 2004, winning 10 state titles over a period of 13 seasons.

Since then titles have been harder to come by, although Oregon City teams are always contenders. Oregon City teams reached the state final in 2006, 2008 and 2009. But their only state title since 2004 came in 2009. They were third in 2010 and 2011.

Still, if any Oregon City team were favored to win state, it would be this year’s team.

The Pioneers are loaded, sporting a lineup that includes nine seniors who are experienced in varsity level play, four of whom were starters last year.

The returning starters have all signed with top-level college programs.

Johanna Paine (6-0 post) and Walters (5-5 point guard) have both signed with NCAA Division I Santa Clara University. Senior Catelyn Preston (6-0 post) has signed with Division I North Arizona University, and senior Jenae Paine (5-10 wing) has signed with Division II Metro State University.

Johanna Paine and Walters were Three Rivers League co-Players of the Year last year, and Walters was named first-team all-state. Both have started since they were sophomores.

Walters last season averaged 9.8 points, 7.3 assists and 2.0 steals. The Pioneers’ leading scorer, Johanna Paine averaged 13.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

Jenae Paine is also a three-year starter. Preston was a second-team all-league selection last season, while Jenae Paine merited honorable mention in the league all-star balloting.

Seniors Chelsi Brewer (5-9 wing), Amber Fifield (5-7 wing), Jamie Goff (6-1 post) and Tiani Bradford (5-8 post/wing) also return from last year’s varsity.

by: JOHN DENNY - Oregon City senior leaders Johanna Paine (left) and Montana Walters have not yet been a part of a state championship team and they plan on changing that this season.And the Pioneers have gained a ninth experienced senior in McKenna Hopkins (5-10 wing), a transfer from Gladstone who was a first-team all-league selection in the Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference last winter.

Rounding out this year’s varsity roster are: seniors Danielle Kirby (5-6 wing) and Breanne Johnston (5-9 post); juniors Toria Bradford (5-6 point guard), Alyssa Durr (5-6 wing) and Jessica Gertz (5-10 wing); and freshman Cierra Walker (5-6 wing).

Kirby sat out last season recovering from an injury, but played jayvee basketball as a sophomore. Johnston, Toria Bradford, Durr and Gertz moved up from last year’s jayvee team.

Walker has good athletic genes in her family. Her mom, Tami [Bannick] Walker, played for an Oregon City team that went 23-1 and placed fourth at state in 1983.

Johanna Paine (14 points), Preston (12 points), Gertz (10 points) and Walters (points) were the Pioneers’ leading scorers in this year’s season opener, a 65-51 win at Milwaukie. The Pioneers prevailed in that game despite 21 percent shooting in the first half.

“I think [the relatively close game with Milwaukie] was good for us,” Johanna Paine said. “It was a wakeup call. Everyone’s gunning for us and we’ve got to come ready to play every night, no matter who the opponent is.”

The Pioneers were much more ready to play last Friday, when they won big at Southridge, outscoring the Skyhawks 37-22 in the first half, en route to a 79-38 victory. Johanna Paine tallied a game-high 20 points to lead 11 Oregon City players who put points on the scoreboard.

Paine said of the Pioneers’ prospects in the TRL: “We’re not looking at ourselves as favorites, because we know anything can happen. You’ve got to come ready to play every night.”

“We’re trying to stay humble this year because last year we got ahead of ourselves, and it kind of hurt us,” Walters said.

The state’s Class 6A coaches have ranked the Pioneers fourth in the state — behind South Medford, Westview and Central Catholic — in their weekly poll.

by: ETHAN FITZGERALD - Oregon City High School senior (from left) Jenae Paine, Catelyn Preston, Montana Walters and Johanna Paine signed letters of intent to play college basketball during recent signing ceremonies in the high school gymnasium. Walters and Johanna Paine have signed with NCAA Division I Santa Clara University; Jenae Paine has signed with Metro State University, a Division II school in Denver; Preston has signed with Northern Arizona University, a Division I school in Flagstaff.Johanna Paine said that she and her teammates are looking forward to this season’s league games with West Linn.

“Those games [with West Linn] will be a big deal to us,” she said. “When they beat us last year, it wasn’t so much that they played good, as we didn’t play to our potential. We didn’t play well at all and [the loss] hurt a lot. They hadn’t beaten us in 28 years. It’ll be a different story [the next time we play them].”

Last season the Pioneers beat West Linn handily twice during the regular season, winning 88-56 and 64-42, but lost to the Lions in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, 49-43.

Oregon City is in Hawaii this week, competing in the Iolani Classic. The Pioneers play two Washington teams on the road on Dec. 20 and Dec. 21, and they play in Lake Oswego’s NIKE Interstate Shootout Dec. 28-30.

League play begins Friday, Jan. 11, when the Pioneers entertain Lakeridge.

Oregon City hosts West Linn on Feb. 1, and the Pioneers close out the regular season on Feb. 19, when they battle the Lions on the road.

The Lions were dealt a blow this fall when one of their better players, starting point guard Brittany Smith, went down with a season-ending knee injury.

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