Jaguars lean on a mix of new and old
When it comes to high school sports, it's not always about what you have, but about what you return. And basketball is no different. Luckily for both the Century boys and girls teams, they return quite a bit.
The boys team returns four starters from a team that finished tied for fourth in the Pacific Conference last season, and with all-league second team honoree Jospin Mugisha — along with honorable mention selections Ikin Chan, Edy Essien and Chance Sparks back in the fold — with a little seasoning, this year's Jags might be a force to be reckoned with.
"We have a lot of the same parts as last year's team, so we just hope to be a year bigger, stronger and better," Century boys head coach Scott Keller said. "There's a lot of experience, especially in the backcourt."
That backcourt starts with Mugisha, who brings a well-rounded scoring mentality to the perimeter, but continues with Chan — who does a lot of the ball-handling — and Essien, a 6-foot junior who is undoubtedly one of the best outside shooters in the conference. Toss the athletic, 6-foot-3 Sparks into the post, and the Jags have a foundation of the type of athleticism that can cause any team problems.
"All four of those guys should be impact players, and bring a lot of experience to the table," Keller said.
The coach said — as a result of that experience and athleticism — they plan to play up-tempo, and similar to last season, pressure their opponents on the defensive end. He considers their quickness to be one of the team's strengths, while their lack of overall size could be a primary weakness.
In addition to the starting core, Keller mentioned junior post Ethan Parish as a player who he expects to have an expanded role this year, along with guards Keallum Colburn and Kyle Hamnes and forwards Conner Bingham and Ejay Tugano.
In regards to the league, Keller believes Sherwood appears to be the favorite, but equally believes there's a parity that should lead to a lot of close games.
And their goals? To compete, mostly, but in the end, to be in the thick of things when it matters most — at the end of the schedule.
"We expect to be competitive every night and hope to be in the mix at the end of the season."
The Century boys opened the season with a 72-52 win over Roseburg.
The Jaguar girls don't have quite the returning core of players, but do return two key contributors in 6-foot-6 senior Amy Walkenhorst and senior guard Angie Baltazar. In addition, head coach David Gainey is excited for the return of junior guard Katie McKinley, who missed last season due to a knee injury, along with junior transfer Mya Smith and senior post Olivia Boone, who the coach says is a "good rebounder and defender."
Gainey expects that with a solid mix of returning talent, along with some new faces and old ones making the transition to varsity this season, the team will take on a bit of a different look than last year.
"We have a few new faces and our style for this year will need to be somewhat different from last year," he said. "We have a few players moving up from JV that run really well and are very good defenders, so we are going to press more and try to play a little more up-tempo."
Those JV players are junior post Crystal Garza, junior guard Olivia Kazlauskas and junior wing Neveen Makboul.
According to Gainey, the team's strength lies in their ball skills, along with their increased physical strength built over the past 12 months. He also believes their running ability will be an asset, as well as the benefit of having Walkenhorst in the middle of their zone.
"Having her in there allows us to take some chances on the perimeter," he said.
And weaknesses? Maybe a lack of depth due to mixing in some new faces, and as a group a lack of consistent shooting.
"Hopefully that will get better as the season goes on."
Gainey believes Liberty and McMinnville to be the league favorites, but also mentioned Forest Grove, Glencoe and Sherwood as teams that return talent. But don't sleep on the Jags.
"If we stay healthy and injury-free, we hope to finish in the top four and to get a playoff game," Gainey said. "Hopefully we can peak at the right time and win a playoff game or two."
Century started the year with a 45-31 win over Grants Pass.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.