Canby girls competitive with the best right up until the very end
For the Canby girls team, it was never a question of being competitive, it was a matter of how far they would get. The answer for this past season? The second round of the state playoffs. The Canby Cougars ran into eventual state tournament finalist Southridge in the round of 16 and were halted by a score of 70-54.
The back and forth contest with the number one ranked team in the state was emblematic of the Cougars overall season. They were very far from victory at all times, and battled constantly, oftentimes punching up in weight. Canby ended its season with a record of 16-10, and claimed third place in the Three Rivers League with a 10-6 record. Only Tigard and West Linn finished above the Cougars, and both reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
According to Canby head coach Chuck Knight, it was a disappointing end to the season but in no way diminished the pride he felt for his team.
"To be in all of those games shows that we were a really quality team," Knight said. "The disappointing part was not being able to get over the hump in some of those games. Had we, we might have taken a different path to getting to the final eight. I felt coming into the playoffs the last week or two that we could beat anybody. Southridge was going to be a tough battle for anybody. We didn't get the draw that we wanted but I'm really proud of the way we competed in the playoffs."
Part of the reason the team performed as well as it did was the team captains stepping into a greater leadership role. Hannah Myers, Cassidy Posey, and Alice Lambert all stepped up, and even took to studying leadership in offseason.
"(They read) a Jeff Janssen book called The Team Captain's Leadership Manual," Knight said. "It breaks it down into sections, and you can do it a week at a time. They would read a section, then come back and talk about it. They took it seriously, and it identifies their areas of strength, and areas to work on. I thought they did a really good job of that. They weren't the most vocal captains that I've had, but they made improvements in that area, and were great captains by example."
Knight also acknowledged that the teams personality and chemistry would not have been what it was without the other seniors: Katie O'Dell, Bailey Shorter, and Emily Bennett. He also highlighted a pair of up and coming players that did not get a lot of shout outs, Ally O'Dell and Naarai Gomez.
"Ally and Naarai are really unsung heroes out there," Knight said. "They did a ton of little things that don't show up on the stat sheet, and embraced that role knowing that a lot of our seniors were going to handle the scoring portion of things. A lot of times it's as valuable to have a kid who doesn't expect to or need to score as it is to have another person who really wants to score. They embraced that role, and defensively was really good, rebounding, offensive rebounding in particular, hustle points, and just not making mistakes."
The players were a cohesive unit on the court, but they were also lifting each other up off the court as well. This was exemplified in a new tradition that began before games, and is something that Knight will remember about the season that came and went.
"We started a tradition that before we would leave the locker room, we'd hold hands in a circle and everybody would say whatever they wanted to say," Knight said. "Whether it was serious or funny or jokey, there was nothing wrong you could say. Kind of started a tradition, and it helped us to come out and relax in games. That tradition sticks out as memory. I think we'll carry it forward. I think our younger kids enjoyed it and appreciated. It was always kind of our seniors that did the heavy talking. The younger guys would chime in, and now it's their time to step up and take that role."