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Cougars to rely on core six players, seeking depth as they enter 2019-20 season

PMG FILE PHOTO - Senior Naarai Gomez returns at point guard for Canby this season.

Canby played its best basketball at the end of last year, and the Cougars hope to carry that momentum into this season.

"We definitely got better as the season went along last year," Canby girls basketball coach Chuck Knight said. "Then we played extremely good basketball in the summer. We were competitive with some really good basketball teams and were just playing at a really high level, and I think that got our kids feeling pretty good about what they can do this year."

Despite winning six of their final 10 games, the Cougars just missed the playoffs last season.

"I think the kids felt like we improved a ton and were on the right track coming into this season," Knight. "It certainly wasn't a wasted season at all. We had a lot of growing to do and we did, just not quite in time to get into the playoffs."

Canby was hurt by its weak non-league schedule.

"It cost us a playoff spot," Knight said. "There's no question. There were 12 to 15 teams in the playoffs that we were as good or better than. We didn't have a strong strength of schedule and that kept us out."

That will not be a problem this year as the Cougars play Mountainside, South Salem and Sheldon, all top 10 teams. Canby is also traveling to the West Coast Jamboree in Concord, California after Christmas.

"There's a lot of good teams," Knight said. "I would guess that pretty much every team in our bracket is at least a top 10 team in 6A in Oregon, if not top five. There's six games right there that are going to really test us and challenge us. We might take our lumps a little bit but it will help us in the long run."

An all-league player last year, senior Nicole Mickelon leads the Cougars into this season.

"If she can stay healthy, I think she can make a run at player of the year in our league," Knight said. "She gives us a lot of versatility and can score in a lot of different ways, and defensively is able to guard on the perimeter, but can also guard on the block."

Senior Ally Odell gives Canby another versatile defender.

Senior Naarai Gomez returns at point guard after taking on the position last season for the first time due to an injury.

"Naarai kind of got thrown in and it takes a while to learn on the fly and she got a lot better as the season went on and I expect her to be even better this year," Knight said.

Senior Arika Evans and Zoe Thompson gives the Cougars an outside shooting presence.

"They both have the ability to knock down some 3s," Knight said.

Freshman Allie Mead is expected to make an immediate impact.

"She really fits in well with the other kids," Knight said. "She brings a lot of energy and has a really good motor and just keeps playing."

While Canby has its core six, Knight is looking for other players to step up.

"We're going to have to get a few other kids that can come in and eat up some minutes," he said. "Hopefully those kids are in our gym. We've just got to figure out who they are. We certainly can't afford any injuries. We're not as deep as we'd like to be. If we can stay healthy, I feel like we're going to be a really tough team. I think they'll be fun to watch because they really share the ball. They're unselfish. They're just as happy to see their teammates score as themselves score. I think they've got a real good grasp of what we do offensively and they execute it well. They have fun, too, and that's always important."

Derek Wiley
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