The Indians are under new leadership and will be looking for some younger players to step up after the departure of several seniors

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla senior Cole Bauge (3) looks for room during the Indians' opener against Banks last season. Head coach: Jeff Bennett, first season

2016-2017 record: 5-14 overall, 4-6 league; Tri-Valley Conference fourth place

Three-year record: 24-45, 14-16

Final OSAA power ranking: 35

Last playoff appearance: 2015-2016 season, lost to Marshfield 49-28 in the first round

Seniors lost: 7 – Andrew Daniels, Austin Apple, Will Schaefer, Brendan Burke, Garrett Thrower, Gavin Thrower, and Matt Borowczak

Key returners: Junior Jeff Larsen, All-League Honorable Mention; senior Cole Bauge; junior Ben Daniels; senior Marcus Simpson

Season outlook: The Indians relied heavily on their large senior class last season and will be looking for their four Varsity returners to be the anchors of this team. Then-sophomore Jeff Larsen was a threat from all over the court as teams began to take notice of his abilities beyond the arch. But relying on the three-point shot perhaps a little too much has been the downfall of past Molalla teams, and if they want to be competitive in the Tri-Valley Conference, they'll have to find a way to pick up their physicality under the basket and in their defensive efforts. Last year, seniors Gavin Thrower and Matt Borowczak were the Indians' primary anchors in the post with decent size, and this year, Molalla doesn't have much in the way of size, other than 6-foot 3-inch senior Chase Jazdinski, who will be returning to the court after taking his junior season off. Juniors Ben Daniels and Cole Bauge will likely play bigger roles this season, along with senior Marcus Simpson, who showed solid ball-handling skills last season in driving to the basket.

Molalla has several talented and athletic players that will likely come up after playing on JV last season, including junior Silverio Lopez, who is coming off of a First Team All-League performance this past football season, and junior Michael House, who showed his jumping capabilities on the track team last season.

Then-senior Andrew Daniels was key in transition last season, and the Indians will likely be looking for someone to take over that role and score some points from fast breaks.

First-year coach Jeff Bennett will bring solid experience with him to the program after having coached for two successful Class 6A programs, Beaverton and Sprague, and will hopefully inspire some confidence in a basketball program that many have said was hindered by former coach Tyler Kelleher.

First game: The Indians will host Columbia Christian on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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