Cougar boys looking to again make some noise in the postseason despite graduation of standout Derek Halverson

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Country Christian junior Drew Halverson sets up the offense during jamboree play against Colton last season. Head coach: Doug Nofziger, 13th season

2016-2017 record: 12-14 overall, 8-6 league; Valley 10 League third place

Three-year record: 51-28 overall, 28-14 league play

Final OSAA power ranking: 37

Last playoff appearance: 2016-2017, lost to Dufur 38-61 in the first round

Seniors lost: 2 – Derek Halverson and Sam Grandle

Key returners: Junior Drew Halverson, All-League Honorable Mention; sophomore Chris Lambert; junior Sean Gilmer; senior David Girrens PIONEER FILE PHOTO - Country Christian sophomore Chris Lambert boxes out a defender during a game last season.

Season outlook: The Cougars are still in somewhat of a rebuilding phase after winning the Class 1A state title in 2014, when they went 29-1 and beat Nixyaawii by eight points in the championship game. Country Christian lost a large group of ten seniors after that year, and have been focusing on developing some of their younger players since.

Last year, the Cougars began to hit their stride towards the second half of the season as they won five of their last eight league games, and then used that momentum to push past Open Door and Southwest Christin in the Valley 10 League playoffs and earn a spot in the Class 1A playoffs before falling to Dufur in the first round.

Head coach Doug Nofziger said he hopes to be able to see a similar effort this season and make some noise at the end of the season again.

"I'm hoping that just getting to that point and getting to the league playoffs, you always hope that carries over to the group that's coming back and puts that taste in their mouths that it's something they want to strive for," Nofziger said. "We know we're probably not going to win state this year, but that's still a goal, and I think this group has that hunger to get back there."

The Cougars were led last season by senior Derek Halverson, an All-State Honorable Mention winner, along with senior Sam Grandle. This year, they have one returning senior in David Girrens and a plethora of younger players coming up that have potential.

"We will definitely miss Derek and Sam's leadership last year," Nofziger said. "Some of those kids from the freshman class last year that got thrown into the fire will have to help us more this year, but they're still 15-year-olds going up against 17- and 18-year-olds, so I'm not putting too much pressure early on, I'm hoping by mid-January we'll be hitting our stride."

Nofziger also noted a fairly strong eighth-grade class coming up in the program that should provide a solid foundation for the program in a few years if they can stick together as a group and work through the JV teams. This season, Howie Long, a 6-feet 3-inch freshman may see a good chunk of time on the court due to his competitive nature and size, along with Adon Farner, who Nofziger said is "very coachable."

The Cougars may be looking to switch up their gameplan a bit this season after relying on Derek Halverson's speed in transitions last year; they've got solid size in Lambert, Girrens, and now Long, which will hopefully allow them to put pressure on teams under the basket and hold teams to one-shot possessions as they'll likely look to have solid defensive rebounding.

"We're going to have to be a little more patient offensively for sure, and we're hoping to use the post we have and get some high-low exchange," Nofziger said. "Chris is tall and athletic, but he's working to find his coordination around the basket; David will help us a lot this year providing that leadership."

First game: The Cougars will host Western Mennonite on Wednesday, Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. for jamboree play

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