by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior post Tyler Gutierrez said he thinks the Apollos can win the 6A state championship this year.

What kind of team could the Sunset boys’ basketball squad be this year?

In the minds of the Apollos, there’s no waffling. As a squad that placed sixth at the 6A state tournament and, returns the most experience of any of the Metro League squads, Sunset’s seeing stars and shooting for the moon.

“We want to be a championship team,” said senior post Tyler Gutierrez. “That’s the goal. We’ve been playing together since sixth grade, so this is our year. This is the year to win the championship and take it home.”

“We just have to take it one game at a time, hopefully win all of them, and win the state championship,” added senior guard Taylor Harris.

Four of Sunset’s starters are back from last year’s team that went 4-6 in the Metro League, but got piping hot in the postseason, throttled Thurston and Tualatin and advanced to the Rose Garden for the state tournament. The Apollos lost in the first round of the 6A tourney to Jesuit, but beat South Medford and finished sixth overall.

“I think our confidence is just up going into this year,” said junior guard Willy Pflug. “We kind of struggled at the Rose Garden, so hopefully we make it back. It’s good to know where you want to get to, so you can kind of strive toward it. You can already picture it.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset junior guard Willy Pflug provides outside shooting and athleticism to the Apollo offense.

Sunset can beat teams in a lot of ways with attackers such as Harris and Jeff Bieber creating offense off the dribble, or Gutierrez and 6-foot-6 Josh Brown thumping foes in the posts. Senior wing Michael Kerns is one of the team’s best perimeter defenders, who also plays unselfishly on the offensive end and hooks up Gutierrez with solid passes to the post.

“I think we’re better off this year,” said Kerns. “We have more experience, more returners, and I think we’re ready to go. We just have to keep improving as the season goes on. We have to keep playing team basketball, keep moving the ball. We have to play good defense, and I think we’ll have a good shot at it.”

Kerns and Harris are at the head of Sunset’s potentially suffocating defense, which boasts length, athleticism and intelligence.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset guard Taylor Harris is one of a handful of Apollos who can play well on both ends of the floor.

The Apollos are proficient enough to stick a team man-to-man, but their extended 2-3 zone is something to lay eyes on.

In Sunset’s season opener against Century, the Apollos deployed the 2-3 defense and, because of their size and speed, effectively ended the Jags’ upset attempt.

Century took contested looks for most of the second quarter and was buried by a 13-1 Sunset second-quarter run.

At the Central Catholic-Halligan tournament during the weekend, Sunset lost to Sheldon, 66-58, but beat Century in the squads’ rematch, 60-45.

“Our length is a big help,” said Kerns. “It’s hard to make passes, hard to see. You can close out shooters and cover the whole court.”

Head coach Todd Sherwood lets his team have a lot of freedom on the offensive end without the restraints of set plays. They’re a motion, read-and-react off one another kind of team that’ll get better as the year goes, and they figure out who’s hot, and who’s in a groove offensively.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior Jeff Bieber is one of the Apollos best drivers to the basket, who constantly attacks the rim.

Off the bench, Sherwood has a number of good options to go to like seniors Charles Wenzel, Bobby Rake, lefty point guard Glenn Tanguay or Mikey Fey.

“We’re working on drive-and-kicks between the posts and being more fluid in that,” said Harris.

Pflug played a lot of minutes as a sophomore and is one of the Apollos’ more accurate shooters. Harris is a knockdown shooter as well.

He’s capable of carrying the offensive load while also sticking to the opposition’s top wing players. Gutierrez is primed for a big senior season, and at 6-foot-8, he’s is a worry for Metro League rivals to handle.

“We just have to be us,” said Pflug. “We’re a different team than last year, so we can’t really focus on the past. We have to focus on what’s next.”

Gutierrez said Sunset’s going to be dangerous in the open floor, with the amount of solid athletes and playmakers it has to throw at the Metro League. The Apollos’ overall basketball intellect is high as well, after years of playing together from middle school through the varsity level.

“We have a bunch of athletes on our team, as well as basketball players,” said Gutierrez. “We have a lot of people who know how to make the right decision. So, just moving the ball, hitting the open man, I think that’s where we thrive.”

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