The Centennial High girls basketball team will be stepping out of the Mount Hood Conference to play an independent schedule over the next two seasons.
The Eagles, who have gone 18-52 (25.7%) in league over the past five seasons, cite competitive imbalance as the main reason for the switch.
"Halfway through the season, we realized we weren't having success, but I also recognize that those girls improved a ton by the end of the year," Stanek said. "They give you everything they have, they go to class, they are great kids — they just haven't seen a basketball."
Much of that inexperience is due to the lack of a middle school program. Past attempts at creating interest at the youth level have been met with the challenges of in-district facility rental fees.
"First-year players were half of my team," Stanek said. "You put in an awful lot of time working on very, very basic skills. I was teaching players how to line up for a free throw. Halfway through the season, I'm in the locker room writing 'Dribble' on the board as one of our pre-game goals."
Centennial senior Angel Aluesi, a track & field standout, joined the team this past season.
"November 18, the first day of practice, was her first day of basketball, and she ended up playing 30 minutes a night for us," Stanek said.
The district has plans in place to restore middle school basketball in the coming year's budget, Stanek said. In the meantime, the Eagles will play an independent schedule, allowing them to find opponents of a similar skill level — sometimes taking on 4A and 5A teams to accomplish that goal.
Stanek plans to continue scheduling home-and-away games against the bottom half of the Mount Hood Conference — Reynolds, Sandy, and Gresham. But the independent status allows the Eagles a reprieve from taking on the conference powers — Clackamas, Central Catholic and Barlow.
"A team throws a half-court trap and a 3/4-court press at you, and your team commits 48 turnovers and it's awful. You can't keep kids interested, because they are just getting run over," Stanek said. "I don't mind losing, but getting clobbered by 60 points doesn't do anyone any good."
Centennial has a solid basketball history, making the playoffs nine times from 1994-2005, but its last playoff win came more than a decade ago.
"From the mid 1990s to the early 2000s, we were averaging 16 wins a year," Stanek said. "If you give us the tools, we can be successful."
The Eagles graduate four seniors from this year's squad, including top scorer Ellie Basinski — a coaches' kid, who came into her high school years with playing experience.
The Gresham-Barlow district brought back basketball at its middle school level two years ago — not enough time to see an impact at the high school level yet, although the goal remains the same to introduce players to the sport at a younger age.
"We are hoping that we can get more girls playing, so that when they come to us they have built up some skills," Gresham High Athletic Director Todd Nagel said.
In the final OSAA girls rankings, the Mount Hood Conference accounted for four teams in the bottom 10.
Reynolds coach Ted Aubin faces a similar challenge on the boys side in a district without a funded program at the middle school level.
"When you have middle school sports, you are teaching kids at an early age the dedication that is required," Aubin said. "You are holding kids responsible for grades and behavior two or three years before they hit high school. They are understanding that sports is a schedule and an every day commitment."
Reynolds saw half of its team quit the season around the Christmas Break this past season, leaving Aubin with three underclassmen in his starting lineup.
"That's a lot of youth and inexperience, while playing in the best conference in the state," Aubin said. "A lot of kids at Reynolds play basketball, but it's not organized basketball. They do have some skills, but when you put them into a team atmosphere, they struggle with how five guys on the court all play together."
The Raiders have gone 2-40 (.048) in league over the past three seasons.
"It's hard because kids only see the wins and the losses, so you try to keep things fun and loose because you want them motivated to come back," Aubin said.
To create some of those winning moments, Reynolds is careful to schedule comparable teams during the nonleague phase of the season.
Reynolds relies heavily on volunteers at its youth level, which have created five teams across the middle school age groups. They get two practice sessions during the week at Reynolds Middle School and play in area tournaments over the weekends.
Aubin has a track record of success with a handful of former players competing in college, not to mention Drew Eubanks, who is playing with the San Antonio Spurs.
Mount Hood Conference
(last five seasons combined)
Team W L Win %
Clackamas 61 9 87.1
Central Catholic 56 14 80.0
Barlow 39 31 55.7
David Douglas 35 35 50.0
x - Sandy 25 47 34.7
Centennial 18 52 25.7
Gresham 13 57 18.6
Reynolds 9 61 12.9
Team W L Win %
Clackamas 57 13 81.4
Central Catholic 55 15 78.6
Barlow 44 26 62.9
David Douglas 37 33 52.9
x - Sandy 33 39 45.8
Centennial 18 52 25.7
Gresham 17 53 24.3
Reynolds 10 60 14.3
x – Sandy played in the 5A NWOC from 2016-18.
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