The Cougars finished the last portion of their league slate without senior guard Bailey Raines, who sustained season-ending knee injuries Feb. 14 against Oregon City.

by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - The Canby girls basketball team is in the hunt for its first playoff win since 2007. Above, senior Rachel Erbe (right) attacks the basket in a nonconference game at St. Mary's Academy in Portland.Heading into its home game against Beaverton-Southridge at 6 p.m. March 4, the Canby girls basketball team has a chance to make history.

Despite losing one of their best players to a season-ending knee injury and despite needing a play-in game to advance after taking fourth place in a stacked conference, the Cougars are in position to win a playoff game for the third time in program history and for the first time in seven seasons.

No. 11 Canby (17-8, 5-5 in the Three Rivers League) has made the playoffs 11 times in school history, including eight seasons in a row, but it hasn’t advanced past the first round since defeating Beaverton 57-50 on the road Feb. 27, 2007.

Second-year coach Brooke Cates believes her team has what it takes to put an end to the drought.

“I think this is the year,” she said. “I said from the beginning that this is the year. I’m just hoping we can get it done. And I think we have the girls to do it.”


Raines out for season

Cates doesn’t have all of the girls she thought she’d have entering the playoffs.

Canby is playing without senior guard Bailey Raines, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the teams’ Feb. 14 loss to Oregon City.

As significant of a setback as it has been, though, Cates said her team has become accustomed to dealing with knee issues. Potential contributors Cianne Cates and Lindsey Wujek missed the year to recover from knee injuries, and senior Taylor Lee was out for much of the preseason to rehab a knee injury of her own.

“Losing Bailey was a huge hit, but this is how it’s been for us all year,” Cates said. “It’s just been a team with a lot of resilience. Right about when Bailey went down is when Taylor got her legs under her where she was back and ready to go a little more. These kids have had these challenges all year.”

Raines has damage in her anterior cruciate and medial collaterial ligaments as well as in her lateral and medial menisci.

“Anytime you lose a starting senior, it’s a huge loss,” Cates said. “She’s really talented, and she’s one of our lockdown defenders. My hope is that our girls will rally. We don’t have one person who can replace Bailey, but I think we can do it as a group. Everybody can do it a little bit.”


‘Six starters all year long’

Raines’ injury has led to increased roles for several players.

Cates said senior Morgan Meisenheimer, in particular, has stepped up to fill in for the Cougars at a variety of positions on the floor.

“I’ve had six starters all year long,” she said of Meisenheimer. “Morgan has had an outstanding senior season. She is so consistent. You can always count on her. And she’s smart. She knows all the plays, so she can come in for anybody. She’s extremely versatile. She’s huge — and she has been all along.”

Lee, meanwhile, is has started to find a groove after building up her physical stamina over the last few weeks.

“She’s progressively getting better,” Cates said. “She’s such a savvy basketball player, but it was her getting her body better for basketball. When you miss six or seven weeks, you miss all that conditioning. So I’ve been gradually giving her more and more time.”


Fourth-place finish

Canby took fourth place in the conference standings with a 5-5 record, finishing behind TRL champion Oregon City, runner-up Clackamas and third-place West Linn.

The Cougars defeated West Linn 61-57 in overtime on the road Feb. 21, avenging their overtime loss to the Lions at home Jan. 31.

They wrapped up their league slate Feb. 25 with a 44-32 loss to Clackamas.

Cates said playing in a conference with three top-10 teams has prepared her team for the postseason.

“We’ve had many playoff-like games,” she said. “I think that can only help you.”


Play-in reunion

Cates admitted it was a little awkward to host a Class 6A play-in game against Salem-Sprague, which is led by former Canby coach Heather Roberts.

The Cougars won in an 84-31 rout Feb. 28.

“It was uncomfortable, but there wasn’t any animosity,” Cates said. “She’s a great coach. She had a lot to do with where these girls are right now. She had (the seniors) those first two years, and I’m reaping the benefits of some of her hard work.”

Roberts compiled a 78-73 record with six playoff appearances in six seasons at Canby.

During Roberts’ tenure, the Cougars had five first-team all-league honorees in Julianne Erbe, Sara Erbe, Melissa Fowler, Jamie Jo McGraw and Brianne Huggins.

Roberts has begun a rebuilding project at Sprague, which was winless in 2012-13 — the season before her arrival. The Olympians went 6-20 this year.

Cates said Canby would have avoided the play-in round if it was part of a different league but added that it was beneficial.

“It’ll keep us in our rhythm,” she said.


Southridge surging

Standing between the Cougars and their first playoff win since 2007 is No. 23 Southridge (11-13), which took fifth place in the six-team Metro League this year.

The Skyhawks snapped a five-game losing streak with a 59-24 drubbing of Springfield-Thurston in the play-in round Feb. 28. Their recent skid included single-digit setbacks against No. 6 Westview — the Metro League champion — and No. 5 Beaverton.

“They’re really a good team, and they’re playing well right now,” Cates said of Southridge. “They have a tradition of winning, and they’ve got a good program. It’s going to be a tough game.”


Nared next?

A win over Southridge would likely pit Canby against Portland-Westview, which features star Jaime Nared.

The Tennessee-bound senior racked up 30 points, 17 rebounds and nine steals to lead Westview in a 61-52 victory in the teams’ nonconference meeting Jan. 7.

In that game, the Cougars led 16-9 at the end of the first quarter despite dressing just five varsity players. Key contributors Skylee Doman, Taylor Lee and Neila Kuznetsov all sat out due to health issues.

“She can do it all,” Cates said of Nared. “We don’t have one person who can guard her, and she’s going to get her points. I thought we did a good job on her last time, and she still had almost 35 points and 20 rebounds. She’s truly an amazing basketball player, gifted beyond gifted. There’s not a close second to her in the state.

“But basketball is a team sport — you do need more than one at some point. It would take a great game (to beat the Wildcats), but I would love the opportunity to play them.”

For updates, follow Jeff Goodman on Twitter.

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