Now is the time for the Pioneers to 'remold and connect' after graduating three seniors from last season's 17-8 team

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Tyra Bradford drives against Moutnain View's Ari Pizzone (12) in the opening round of the Les Schwab Northwest Championship tournament at Oregon City High School.Oregon City point guard Tyra Bradford spotted an opening in the Mountain View defense and tried to take the ball to the basket.

As Bradford put the ball on the floor, though, the lane to the basket closed.

She didn't have a shot.

But Mia Martineau was open, standing alone behind the 3-point line on the right wing.

Instead of taking the tough shot, Bradford made the pass to Martineau, who drilled the shot and added to what was already a double-digit lead.

On the Oregon City bench, Pioneers coach Tiffani Traver led the cheers and then turned to her reserves. It was time to get them some playing time in a summer tournament game that was turning into a blowout.

"Summer is about having fun," Traver said. "Not that the regular season isn't, but in the summer there's no pressure, no one is keeping track of who wins what in the summer, you're just here trying to get better.

"You're just out here playing and whoever we have, we throw on the court and we play."

Tarver is well-versed in the history of Oregon City girls basketball and the ground-breaking role the Pioneers played in summertime basketball. She appreciates the traditions and understands the impact that has had on the program, first seeing it as a player, then as an assistant, and now in her second year as head coach.

This year, the Pioneers have 48 players — enough to field five teams — and although Oregon City's summer schedule is only six weeks long, by the end of it, the varsity team will have been through 18 practices and played in 35 games.

Oregon City opened the summer session June 1 at a Hoopsource Tournament in Hillsboro. Next came tournaments in Vancouver and Newberg, and then three consecutive tournaments based at Oregon City High School — the June 21-23 Les Schwab Northwest Summer Championship, the June 28-30 End of the Trail Shootout, and the July 5-8 End of the Trail National Showcase.

"We're fortunate because we had the opportunity to help run the two Brad Smith basketball camps here and work the tournaments," Traver said. "So, for about 2 1/2 weeks straight, our girls are together from 7 a.m. to at least 5 p.m. each day.

"Sometimes that creates some drama, but they have to work through it. And that's in the regular season, too. When you're together all the time, things are bound to come up, and the question is whether or not they can work through it and push past it. And our girls are good about things like that.

"I think it helps, too, having just graduated some kids — I mean, everyone graduates some — the new group gets to remold and just connect with one another on a different level."

Oregon City lost three seniors — Brooke Bullock, Haley Eckert, and Grace Pedersen — from last season's 17-8 team. Of those three, the one the Pioneers miss the most is Bullock, the dynamic 5-foot-7 combo guard and the Three Rivers League's Defensive Player of the Year last season.

The Pioneers aren't expecting one player to step in and do all the things Bullock did. They see it more as a group project with Katie Kathan, Jalissa Lugo, Josie Willard, and Martineau helping lead the way.

"We're definitely missing Brooke, but that's just more scoring that others have to do and more opportunities for all of us to get better," said Kathan, the 5-7 senior-to-be who has shifted from a wing position to the secondary-point guard spot that Bullock played in OC's guard-oriented, dribble-drive offense.

"I want to step into her role," Kathan said. "I want to do what she did. She was a big-time threat, and that's what I'm trying to become.

"There were times when we'd give Brooke the ball and we'd get stuck watching her because she could do almost anything she wanted. But now, everyone in contributing equally on every play, every possession, being aggressive, running the floor, and scoring."

The Pioneers might be on to something. After they knocked off Mountain View 52-23 in the open round of the Les Schwab Northwest Championship tourney, they won their next game 49-40 over Lake Oswego, then lost a nail-biter 42-40 to Mt. Spokane, and then bounced back with a 61-35 win over Churchill.

"This is actually the first tournament where we're all together," Traver said. "The last couple, we've had people gone for this or that, so I'm excited to see what we can do as a team together and we're not missing some pieces.

"We've had some younger players who have had no choice but to fill a gap, and the confidence they've shown has been outstanding because they're just playing hard. The hope is they'll carry that confidence into the winter, knowing that they can play with a Tyra Bradford and they can play with a Katie Kathan and an Emmaly Welch and they can compete.

"Even if they're not the one starting, I want them to be comfortable with the other girls and confident in their own ability to come off the bench and give us some good minutes because that's what we'll need."

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