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Liberty's starting five includes two juniors and three sophomores, but hopes are high

The Liberty boys basketball team is young.

As in really young — the Falcons count just two seniors on their varsity roster, and right now they start three sophomores and two juniors.by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Liberty sophomore Brayden Bafaro brings the ball up court during Tuesday's nonleague basketball game against city rival Glencoe.

But those babies may come up big this winter. They have already shown glimpses of their potential, including Tuesday night at city rival Glencoe. The Falcons jumped out to an early lead, gave it up in the second half, and then turned the tables back on the Crimson Tide in a 45-41 victory.

That win was a big one, Liberty coach O.J. Gulley pointed out, because it was the Falcons’ first official contest of the season. The team had been scheduled to host Dallas last Friday, but that contest was canceled due to inclement weather.

“We’ve got a long ways to go, a long ways to go, but we’re pleased,” Gulley said. “We’re excited to get this game out of the way just because we’re tired of beating up on ourselves.”

Against the Crimson Tide, Jacob Mast picked up right where he left off last year. The 6-foot-3 sophomore wing led his team with 11 points. As a freshman last season, he was one of two All-Northwest Oregon Conference selections, making the third team while then-senior post Aaron Holman was a second team pick.

“Right now he’s our leader. He’s doing everything we ask him to on and off the court, getting these guys together with team bonding things on the weekends, going to movies and stuff like that,” Gulley said.

“We’re just impressed for just a sophomore. We told him at the beginning of the season, ‘You’re a sophomore, but to us you’re one of our players now. Last year you were a freshman, but now we need you, and we count on you to lead us.’ And he’s doing that.”

Gulley acknowledges that with a young roster, his program has a bright future, but he is not settling for results down the road.

“We don’t want to think future,” Gulley said. “We want to think now, so we need to be the best we can be right now.”

The coach is particularly excited to welcome back another sophomore, point guard Koby Alvarado (5-8), who missed much of last season with a knee injury. The team’s record dipped considerably after his injury, Gulley noted.

Classmate Blake Walker, a 6-3 wing, is another returning starter and transitions from his quarterback duties on the football field in the fall. Junior wing Tyler Parker (6-1) and junior post Byron Greenlee (6-3) round out the starting lineup.

Sophomore point guard Tristan Bolinger and sophomore wing Brayden Bafaro provide shooting ability from off the bench, Gulley said, and junior post Edgar Rodriguez (6-3) offers a positive influence and will see playing time.

Glencoe Crimson Tide

If the Glencoe boys basketball team keeps generating forward momentum, this season could turn into a pretty solid one for the Crimson Tide.

“One of the things we’re getting our kids to do is compete,” coach Bob Wismer said. “They’re working hard, and they’re getting better.”

Wismer is the new leader of the Glencoe program, though he is not new to coaching in Washington County, having also made coaching stops at Banks, Gaston and Forest Grove, where he teaches social studies. He has plenty of senior leadership with which to work this winter.

In all, seven of the 12 players listed on the Tide’s varsity roster are seniors. That includes all five starters, including senior 6-foot-5 post Kyle Mincemoyer, a returning honorable mention all-league selection.

Senior post Shayne Rixie (6-5) also earned an honorable mention nod a year ago. Wings Jared Duvall (6-0), Ray Castaneda (5-7) and Grant Ramey (6-0), plus posts Trevor Williams (6-4) and Matt Hopman (6-3) round out this year’s veteran senior class.

Junior 6-0 wings Curtis Crocker and Landon Apeland also show promise as swing players for Glencoe, which went 4-21 overall and 2-12 in league play last season.

Wismer is trying to convert the squad to a more up-tempo style, and he likes what he has seen so far.

“We made some mistakes, but we’re getting better,” Wismer said. “Experience will take care of those, and practice will take care of those.”

Hillsboro Spartans

No one likes to lose, but Hillsboro’s season-opening loss to Gresham last Friday could yield dividends for the Spartans down the road.

“Our guys have been doing a good job of working hard and are real enthusiastic about the process of getting ready to start the season,” coach Ryan Svenson said after his team’s 61-46 defeat to the Gophers. “The Gresham game was kind of an eye-opener, just how physical 6A varsity basketball is. We maybe were a little ill-prepared for that.”

The good news was that Hilhi had no scheduled games until today, and Svenson was looking forward to the chance to spend the week practicing, doing some fine-tuning and shoring up weaknesses while gearing up to host city rival Liberty.

Key among the returners is Tyler Fernstrom, a 6-foot senior combo guard who was an honorable mention all-conference player and the team’s top scorer last season.

“He’s really improved. Last year he was kind of just one-dimensional,” Svenson said about Fernstrom. “He was a shooter and we kind of had to do things to get him open. This year he has the capability of being more of a scorer and creating his own shot, so we’re going to need him to do that.”

Plenty of other Spartans are ready to step into that void, as the team returns several players with at least varsity practice experience, which allows the squad to play with added complexity in its schemes this winter. They could be key in helping Hilhi improve upon its 4-21 overall and 3-11 conference records from a year ago.

Senior post Brandon Wilson (6-1) is back and offers energy and defensive and rebounding skills. Some players Svenson sees stepping into bigger roles this year include senior forward Jed Thomas (6-2), an athletic slasher, and senior guard Blake Pearson (6-2), a shooter. Freshman point guard Terell Mims (5-9) will get a lot of time in the Spartans’ backcourt, Svenson said.

Century Jaguars

Century landed six players on the all-conference boys basketball team last season, but five of those players graduated in the spring, leaving head coach Scott Kellar with an inexperienced bunch this winter.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces,” Kellar said. “A lot of guys getting throw into the fire early in the season.”

The Spartans do have the luxury of returning senior point guard Jamel Liggins, a four-year varsity starter and a second team all-league pick last season. He will shoulder much of the scoring burden.

“We’re asking a lot of him and so far he’s doing really well,” Kellar said. “It’s nice to have somebody who has played in a lot of big games.”

Three seniors are in line for extended minutes this year — 6-foot-1 wing Deevon Castaneda, 6-3 wing/post Jordan Sheffer and 6-5 post Quinn Marshall. Juniors Tanner Bull (6-0) and Trevor Cantrall (6-4) will also work into the mix.

“We’re definitely taking it one day at a time,” Kellar said. “We really are just trying to get better each game.”

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