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Youthful Wildcats eye return to playoffs after rare absence last year

by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - ChiAnn Morris and the Wilsonville girls basketball team will strive for a playoff berth after missing out last season for the first time since 2004.Cindy Anderson isn’t used to missing the playoffs.

The Wilsonville girls basketball team didn’t earn a bid last year for the first time since 2004, meaning a return trip this season is a priority for the program.

But it probably isn’t going to be easy.

Neither of last year’s two most reliable scorers is back on the roster, and only two current players boast extensive varsity experience.

“Experience is really something that is a premium in playoff teams,” said Anderson, who is entering her 17th year at the helm. “We’re learning on the fly and teaching as we go. I wish we had one more week of practice.

“As for the playoffs, that’s the kids’ goal. I think it’s achievable. But we’ll have to steal a few games here and there. The kids are working hard, they’re battling every day and you can’t ask for anything else. We’ll have to get a few breaks here and there.”

The breaks haven’t come quite yet.

Anderson was prepared to lose graduated senior guard Brynn Lio, a talented long-range shooter who earned second-team all-conference recognition last year.

But then she lost Caitlin Malvar, who transferred to West Linn after a standout freshman season at point guard. Malvar, also a second-team all-league honoree last year, appeared primed to follow Jill Noe, Carly Towne, Melinda Ingalls, Alyssa Clark and others in a long line of successful floor generals under Anderson.

“I’m not sure where our scoring is going to come from,” Anderson said.

The two most experienced returning players, senior forward ChiAnn Morris and junior guard Kendall Tate, will probably be part of the equation. Morris has shown growth in her offensive skills, Anderson said, while Tate is readjusting to the hardwood after helping the girls soccer team reach the state semifinals.

Jocelyn Welberg, Kristen Burke, Alex Monello, Carly McNiel, Cassie Rowan, Annika Oetken and McKena Eisenbrandt also figure to make contributions for the Wildcats.

“With our pressing and trying to run and gun, we’re going to have to play a lot of people,” Anderson said. “They’re great kids, and they’re working hard. But with such a young group, we’re teaching so much of the time. We haven’t been able to focus on one thing.”

Despite its youth and relative inexperience, though, Wilsonville is encouraged by its early performances.

The team flashed its potential during moments of its Dec. 4 jamboree, boosting Morris’ hopes for the upcoming campaign.

“Even though they weren’t full games I think we surprised ourselves and everyone,” she tweeted. “So excited for the season!!”

Two days later, the Wildcats eked out a 40-36 win over Portland-Jefferson in its season opener. It was their fourth-straight victory in the series since losing to the Democrats in the 2010 state championship game.

“We were thankful we won,” Anderson said. “It was a first game full of some jitters and not pretty moments, but a win’s a win. We battled through it.”

Similar grit will likely be necessary for Wilsonville to get back to the playoffs after a rare absence last year, when they went 10-13 overall and 7-7 in the Northwest Oregon Conference.

Last season, the Wildcats went 5-2 in their final seven games after starting league play with a 2-5 record. Two of their last four league losses came by seven points or fewer.

Wilsonville finished with the No. 25 ranking in Class 5A. The top 24 teams advanced to the playoffs.

“We want to be in the upper third of the league and try to get a playoff spot,” Anderson said. “Last year, there were several close games that could’ve gone our way. It was kind of a rebuilding year last year, and we’re doing it again. But that’s the joy of high school sports — you get the kids you get and see if you can battle it out.” 




Coach: Cindy Anderson (17th year)

Last year: 10-13 (7-7 in the NWOC); no playoffs

Key players: Kendall Tate, ChiAnn Morris, Jocelyn Welberg, Alex Monello, Kristen Burke, Annika Oetken, Carly McNiel, Cassie Rowan, McKena Eisenbrandt

Key losses: Caitlin Malvar (transferred to West Linn), Brynn Lio, Kate Cosgrove, Anne Gilbert

First league game: 7:15 p.m. Jan. 14 vs. Milwaukie

Outlook: Without graduated senior Brynn Lio and departed point guard Caitlin Malvar, who transferred to West Linn, Wilsonville will need new sources of offense as it tries to get back to the state playoffs after missing out last year for the first time since 2004.



12/6            JEFFERSON                        7:15 p.m.

12/10            CLACKAMAS                        7:15 p.m.

12/13            South Albany                        7 p.m.

12/17            SILVERTON                        7:15 p.m.

12/19            Gladstone                        7 p.m.

12/26            Gresham tourney            TBD

12/27            Gresham tourney            TBD

12/28            Gresham tourney            TBD

1/7            THE DALLES                        7:15 p.m.

1/14            MILWAUKIE *            7:15 p.m.

1/17            SANDY *                        7:15 p.m.

1/21            Liberty *                        7:15 p.m.

1/24            ST. HELENS *                        7:15 p.m.

1/28            PARKROSE *                        7:15 p.m.

1/31            Sherwood *                        7:15 p.m.

2/4            Milwaukie *                        7:15 p.m.

2/7            PUTNAM *                        7:15 p.m.

2/11            Sandy *                        7:15 p.m.

2/14            St. Helens *                        7:15 p.m.

2/18            LIBERTY *                        7:15 p.m.

2/20            Parkrose *                        7:15 p.m.

2/25            SHERWOOD *                        7:15 p.m.

2/28            Putnam *                        7:15 p.m.

* Northwest Oregon Conference game

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