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Skyhawks will have to deal with the loss of Brink, but still have talent in the fold

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Southridge senior point guard McKelle Meek and the Skyhawks hope to reach their fourth straight 6A title game.

When word of Cameron Brink's departure to Mountainside got out quickly and swiftly swirled around South Beaverton, then the state at-large in early September, it was the type of blow that can doom a state championship dream before it even starts.

Southridge probably wasn't stunned by the news but watching its prized superstar center pick up and become a Maverick still must have been a startling sight. Brink didn't transfer to Benson or some elite out-of-state basketball factory. She went right down the road, to a team that's now one of the Skyhawks' chief rivals. To say the Skyhawks will be better off is asinine. Brink is a once-in-a 20-year-talent and now Southridge has to play against her, not with her, twice, maybe three times this season including the playoffs.

How the Skyhawks respond to such is one of the more fascinating storylines of the girls' basketball season. Do they disappear without their power punch in the post? Or do they prove they can be just as effective without the Class 6A Most Valuable Player? Southridge has reached the Class 6A state championship game the past three seasons. And while Brink's migration is still hard to believe, Southridge can't and won't go down in flames. Starters such as Maya Hoff, McKelle Meek and Kaylen Blair are proud champions who have performed incredibly under the brightest of lights, battled with the best and come out on top. Head coach Michael Bergmann and his staff can get the Skyhawks through the storms. More will be asked of both coaches and players than ever before. Brink's two-way ability could mask any deficiency on the court. Now any loopholes will be exposed.

But the Skyhawks' core remains intact. Meek, Hoff, Blair and Kilyn Dawkins all started a year ago. Meek is a four-year starter at point guard, a floor general with a great handle who can shoot the lights out from beyond the three-point line. Bergmann said Hoff is an elite on-ball defender, a very good point guard, and uses her length on both offense and defense. Hoff can lock up any guard in the state. She'll be hell-bent on getting the Skyhawks back to state after getting her jaw broken against Beaverton in the 6A semis last year. The Southridge head coach said Dawkins has the athleticism of a guard in a post's body. She runs the floor well and is a very good rebounder.

According to Bergmann, Kyla Vinson is extremely athletic with a good outside shooter and can shoot off the dribble well. She is a very good on-ball defender. Blair is a very good on-ball defender and is a good outside shooter. Emoney Reid is a player that can play both inside and outside depending on mismatches. Tait Quinlan is very strong and has great hands around the rim. The sophomore uses her size very well, Bergmann said.

So, no, all is not lost with the Skyhawks. Maybe Brink's exit is the spark that reignites this squad and gets them reenergized to make another state title run. Their starting lineup is still as good as any in the state. Southridge's 2-3 zone, while maybe not as formidable now, is still stingy, extended and nasty with ballhawks like Hoff and Meek manning the perimeter. Dawkins was an All-Metro talent a year ago and showed flashes of takeover potential in the state tournament. The junior forward, along with Blair and Vinson will get more shots, more minutes, more responsibility.

In a league that's elite, with three teams in Beaverton, Mountainside and Southridge that will contend for both conference and state supremacy, the Skyhawks will have to scrap to defend their trio of Metro titles.

"We will fight at the top of the league that is loaded with Beaverton and Mountainside," Bergmann said. "Beaverton and Mountainside should be considered the favorites from the start. Jesuit will get better as the year goes on because of their youth. Southridge will keep growing as the year goes on and we have a chance to be in every game we play in if we play as a team and use everyone's strengths."

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Southridge stars Kilyn Dawkins (left) and Kyla Vinson (right) will take on more responsibility this season.

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