Wildcats hoping to shore up offensive inconsistencies as league season looms

by: GREG ARTMAN - Wilsonville girls basketball coach Cindy Anderson (center) is hoping for better shooting efficiency and improved execution on defense as her team enters its league slate.Cindy Anderson cared about the scoreboard, but she cared more about her players’ effort.

So when her team met at halftime of its eventual loss to The Dalles at home Jan. 7, the Wilsonville girls basketball coach made her message clear.

She knew the Wildcats could do better.

“We were intimidated, we were not getting to our spots and we ere going through the motions,” Anderson said. “I kind of lit a fire under them about their effort — about things they can control.”

Her players responded. They were unable to overcome their halftime deficit, but they showed more life in the second half of a 63-35 loss to The Dalles that characterized their up-and-down preseason.

Wilsonville (3-6), which started the year with wins in two of its first three games, went 1-5 after that. The team is scheduled to begin league play at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 14 with a home game against Milwaukie.

At least part of the Wildcats’ early struggles could be attributed to an itinerary that included games against two strong Class 6A teams (Clackamas and Central Point-Crater), a 4A contender (Gladstone) and The Dalles, which Anderson said has a chance to make noise at the 5A state tournament.

Offensive inconsistency and defensive miscues also contributed to Wilsonville’s sub-.500 record.

Against Gladstone, the Wildcats were held scoreless in the third quarter. Against The Dalles, they had about a dozen shots blocked.

Sophomore guard Karlin McNiel had a team-high seven points, while freshmen Kristen Burke and Betsy Morris each added six in the Jan. 7 setback.

Senior forward ChiAnn Morris, who is averaging a team-high 8.11 points per game, logged five points and 13 rebounds.

“We were playing tentative and scared,” Anderson said. “We’re struggling to find a consistent scorer. We’re still a little gun-shy, and we’re not going to the basket as hard as we’d like.”

One of the team’s best individual offensive performances so far came from junior guard Kendall Tate, who scored 21 points in a 60-37 win over Salem-Sprague during a winter-break tournament in Gresham.

Defense has also been a mixed bag for Wilsonville, which held three opponents below 40 points but which gave up more than 60 to three others.

Anderson’s team is still working out the kinks in its full-court press, which it implements frequently to take advantage of its speed and athleticism. It forced The Dalles into 23 turnovers but also was occasionally caught out of position on long passes.

“Against teams that are equal or not as good, it works,” Anderson said. “Against bigger, faster teams, it’s going to be a struggle. We’re not giving up a ton of layups, but we’re still figuring out when to double, when not to double.”

Shooting efficiency and defensive execution will probably go a long way in determining how Wilsonville fares in the Northwest Oregon Conference this season.

Sherwood, the highest-ranked team in the league at No. 10, has caught Anderson’s eye with its 2-3 zone defense and flex offense. Putnam is better than its 2-6 record might indicate, she said. Milwaukie has a size advantage that will cause problems for other teams, she added.

Sandy (5-4), which has a new head coach this year in Ryan Alexander, is the only NWOC team with a winning record entering the regular season.

“It’s wide-open,” Anderson said. “But if we’re not into it, we can get beat on any evening. We need to be focused and flying around.”

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