The Rangers hope unity will improve offense

Jon Erickson is turning each day of practice into a grind.

Since the Estacada girls basketball team began practicing last week, Erickson has placed an emphasis on conditioning in order to prepare his squad for the demanding style of play he wants to implement this year.

“We want to run a lot more transition offense,” Erickson says.

And in a system that demands cohesiveness and fluidity, the coach believes this style suits his veteran team well.

The Rangers only graduated two players last season and are reloading with a crew full of senior leadership. Erickson admits it's a little scary to think about how many players the team will lose to graduation after this year, but in the meantime he's focused on making great strides from last season.

“We have a lot of people coming back that really understand the system,” Erickson says.

Estacada is coming off a 3-18 season and a 1-9 record against Tri-Valley Conference opponents. While the win-loss record might indicate a year of severe struggles, Erickson was confident in the players he had, as well as the ones returning.

Four the of the Rangers first five losses were decided by six points or fewer. But as the year progressed, the tribulations worsened, and when Estacada started facing conference opponents, the season slipped away.

But even in the difficult Tri-Valley Conference, which boasted three teams ranked in the top-15 at the 4A level, Estacada still finished third in points allowed. But on offense, the Rangers finished last in points scored.

So to bolster the scoring, Erickson wants to utilize the athletic ability of his players with a fast-break system.

“We need to push the tempo and stay out on the attack to be more successful,” he says.

Estacada, though, will try to improve its offense without its leading scorer from last season, Sierra Smith. But Erickson acknowledges that several players trained hard during the off-season in order to make the necessary strides to compete this year.

“As a team, we'll have to fill that void,” Erickson says. “I think we have that covered but it takes a little while for that to come through.”

The Rangers lineup consists of several volleyball players, which gives the team length and the ability to jump. So Erickson hopes his team will have a presence on the boards, allowing them to swing quickly into transitioning up and down the floor.

But one of the keys to successfully utilizing that style of offense will be the depth of Estacada's bench.

With six seniors and a handful of juniors, the coach expects to give eight or nine players regular minutes, but he admits that it'll take time before he finalizes roles.

“It's important that the players are able to work together in the fast break,” Erickson says. “We can have 15 kids who can run, but if they can't run together it's not beneficial.”

With the first game of the season on Nov. 30 at home, Erickson is quickly trying to develop unity and an understanding of his style.

“The season comes up really quick,” he says.

But before the games begin, the Rangers will implement goals for the season, which include improving on their three-win mark from last year and possibly reaching the playoffs.

“We want to be more competitive,” Erickson says. “We want to move up out of the bottom of our conference and be more competitive with the upper level teams.”

The goals, though, will extend beyond the wins and losses. Erickson wants to start laying the foundation for the program and build a team this season that can help generate success for years to come.

He envisions that the team's senior leadership will rub off on the younger varsity players and even girls throughout the program.

“Outside of winning games, we have some other things we'd like to see,” Erickson says. “There's a lot of work to be done in our program that goes beyond the record.”

Erickson knows that this group of seniors wants to leave with success. But if they can influence the future of the program, they'll leave with a legacy.

“This is it for them,” Erickson says. “They would like to go out with something they can hang their hat on.”

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