Best of the best
You can't talk about this past school year without speaking of the Banks Braves and their three boys state titles, and we'll get to that, but the 4A state football, basketball and baseball state champions weren't the only example of excellence during the 2018-19 seasons, and this piece is designed to honor a handful of the year's best school, team and player performances.
We have to start on the gridiron, where the Braves ended a 98-year drought without a boys state championship by defeating Seaside 31-20 in the state 4A championship game at Hillsboro Stadium. Banks followed a season-opening loss to Gladstone with 11 straight wins, including playoff victories over Baker, Marist Catholic, Marshfield and then the Seagulls in the 4A state title game. The Braves were led by first team all-state selections Blake Markham, Hayden Vandehey, Blake Gobel, Jacob Slifka, Hayden Gobel and Risdon White. Head coach Cole Linehan was honored as the state's Coach of the Year.
Not to be outdone, the Liberty Falcons went undefeated in league play en route to a Pacific Conference championship, then rode their momentum all the way to the 6A state quarterfinals before losing to defending state champion Clackamas. The Falcons were led by Brad Norman, Marquis Brown and Diego Rodriguez, who were selected as the Offensive, Defensive, and Lineman of the Year. Senior Aidan Maloney was also a key contributor for the Falcons, earning first team all-league selections as both a return specialist and running back. Liberty head coach Eric Mahlum was the Pacific Conference Coach of the Year.
Elsewhere, Forest Grove earned a trip to the state playoffs after winning just one game over their last two seasons. The Vikings finished 6-3 in the regular season before losing to eventual state champion Thurston in the first round.
Speaking of champions, the Forest Grove High School dance squad, the Vikettes, completed an undefeated fall dance season with first place finishes in the Small Pom and Kick divisions at the Oregon Fall State Category Championships. The Vikettes took first prize in both divisions at preliminary events at both Scappoose and David Douglas high schools in November to qualify for the state championships, and mopped up at West Linn, capping a season that couldn't have been predicted to start the year.
"We didn't expect this," said Forest Grove co-head coach Brandy Fletcher. "We're very competitive, but I don't think we knew we'd be this successful this year. But everything just kind of fell into place."
On the pitch, Glencoe earned Pacific Conference titles on both the boys and girls side, the boys going undefeated in league play, while the girls too were undefeated in league action before being upset by Canby in the state playoffs' first round. The first round defeat marked the end of a storied senior class career.
"These seniors did a lot," said Crimson Tide head coach Josh Richards. "They brought this program from one that had not really accomplished much, to one that made the playoffs every year, that made it to the second round twice and the semifinals last year. It's been an incredible run and one the school will never forget."
Celeste Molina Sanchez, Michaela Kirschten and Sarah Mauk were selected all-state.
The Forest Grove boys had an historic season, riding a wave of unprecedented momentum and the talent of senior Oscar Macias all the way to the 6A state semifinals, where their season ended in a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime defeat to Jesuit. The Vikings had two all-state selections, Ivan Torres and Macias, the latter of whom was selected as both the Pacific Conference and State Players of the Year.
The Banks girls finished 8-3-3, second in the Cowapa League, and qualified for the state playoffs before losing a first round game to Philomath. Head coach Ron Pestner was very pleased with the season, but hopes that another year of experience will help take his team to another level next season.
"We take this season and build upon it," Pestner said. "We have as much mental and physical talent as anybody, and now with this kind of experience, I think next year when I talk about what it takes, they don't have to imagine it."
The Crimson Tide's fall success didn't stop on the pitch, as Glencoe also won a league volleyball title with help from senior Morgan DeBord — who garnered first team all-league honors — and sophomore Jayda Lee. Meanwhile, Liberty's Bea Wetton was selected as the Pacific Conference Player of the Year and earned second team all-state honors.
Gaston, too, had a successful volleyball season, despite losing five key seniors to graduation. The Greyhounds finished 18-8 overall and placed third in the Northwest League before falling the state 2A playoffs' first round.
Not to be forgotten, Hillsboro's girls water polo team had their best year in program history, finishing third at state and placing four girls — Rena French, Maya French, Arwen Nielsen and Cami Maurer — on the all-state team.
"We've never had girls receive those awards," said Coach Cam Clitheroe. "We haven't ever made it this far, so to be recognized in such a way was a nice end to a good season."
The Banks Braves boys took their second bite out of Seaside, again defeating the Seagulls, this time in the basketball state championship game. Banks finished second to Seaside in Cowapa League play, but after wins over Marist and Woodburn, redeemed their regular season defeat with a 62-56 win when it mattered most.
"I'm on top of the world," said Banks guard Bret Cameron. "After winning in football, I didn't think it could get any better, but this might be the best feeling I've ever had in my life."
Cameron scored 13 points in the final. Blake Gobel scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds en route to being named the State 4A Player of the Year.
Continuing on the boys side, Forest Grove — led by first team all-league honoree Guy Littlefield — placed second in the Pacific Conference and qualified for the state playoffs before losing in the first round.
The Banks girls won a fourth straight league championship, with senior Aspen Slifka finishing her career with a second OSAA 4A State Player of the Year honor.
Liberty finished tied atop the Pacific Conference girls basketball standings, then defeated Westview in the state playoffs' first round before losing a heartbreaking second round game to Jesuit. The Falcons were led by a handful of talented underclassmen, including juniors Talia Kahakai-Wyatt, Breeze Bartle and Clara Robbins, along with sophomores Taylin Smith and Livia Knapp.
Century, Glencoe and Hillsboro all made the state playoffs, and the Jaguars won a first-round game before losing to eventual champion Benson in the second round.
The Tide's Morgan DeBord was selected as the Pacific Conference Player of the Year.
In the pool, Century's Luke Thornbrue, who'll be swimming at Notre Dame this fall, won state championships in both the 200 — in which he broke his own state record — and 500 freestyle events after taking two years off from high school competition.
"It was exciting coming back a couple years later and breaking that record again," said the senior. "It was really cool. It reminds me a lot of my freshman year, when it was so exciting. I've just been swimming club for the last few years, so it's fun to be back."
Hillsboro's Rena French finished second in the 50-yard freestyle, while Nathan Claxton had two top-5 finishes in the 100 yard butterfly and backstroke.
Forest Grove also had a banner year in the pool, going undefeated for the first time in school history and winning the Pacific Conference girls dual championship.
"It means everything and it's why we do it," said Forest Grove head coach Tabor Waterstreet. "It's why we put days, hours and pain in the pool, because you always want to make history. We performed exactly like I was hoping we would, and like we trained and prepared to."
On the mat, Hillsboro led the way, winning a NWOC district championship.
"This is a team sport, not individual," said Hillsboro head coach Stephen Moreno. "Some of my seniors — Nick Peterson, Brandon Schubmehl, Jayden Strickland, Ralphy Medina — they've been wrestling for years in Hillsboro, and this is big for them because they've never had a team championship. They've had dual titles, but not the whole package. So to have both for those guys is really nice to send them off with that championship."
Hilhi had four state placers, and the Spartans' Ayana Medina won a state girls championship in the 105-pound weight division.
Not to be outdone, Banks' J.J. Ellis won a second consecutive state championship, this year in the 220-pound division.
"Being a two-time state champ felt great for about 10 minutes ... then I realized I have to do it again next year," Ellis said.
Liberty's Aidan Maloney finally finished what he started his sophomore year, winning the 110-meter hurdles at the state championships after placing second in each of the two prior seasons. Maloney finished a rain-soaked effort with a time of 14.66, and while not a perfect race, the senior was obviously pleased with the result and more so, how it reflected on the ones who helped him get there.
"I'm definitely excited for this because I really wanted to win," Maloney said. "Not just for my own accomplishment, but I know how much time and effort my coaches have put in to me, so it means a lot being able to win it for them."
Glencoe's Madison McGlasson, while not winning, finished second in the 100 hurdles, and Hillsboro's Alison Okorie placed fourth in the same event as part of the 5A championships.
In the field, Forest Grove's Dominic Funk placed second in the javelin, while Banks' Jacob Slifka was second in the discus as part of the 4A meet.
"Funk did it again," Vikings' head coach Adrian Shipley said. "After winning the district title on his last throw at the Pacific Conference Championships, he fully committed to his final throw as a Viking."
On the diamond, the Crimson Tide softball team swept through the Pacific Conference before losing to eventual champion Sheldon in the state quarterfinals. Glencoe's Jensen Becker was selected as the conference Player of the Year; sophomore Dana Butterfield was the conference Pitcher of the Year; and head coach Jason Eastman the conference Coach of the Year. In all, the Tide had six first team all-league selections, one second-teamer and four honorable mention.
Hillsboro, too, dominated the diamond, finishing the regular season 24-1 before losing a state semifinal to Dallas. The Spartans' McKenzie Staub was honored as the NWOC Pitcher of the Year, and sophomore Kiara McCrea — after being snubbed for conference Player of the Year — went on to be selected Co-State Player of the Year.
Not to be forgotten, Banks — like the aforementioned — went undefeated in Cowapa League play on their way to a league title. The Braves then won back-to-back come-from-behind playoff games before losing to Henley in the state semifinals. Banks' Hannah McCourt was honored as the conference Player of the Year and first year head coach Rosie Contri was the conference Coach of the Year.
On the hardball side of things, Banks did it again, claiming their third state championship with a 3-1 win over Henley in the 4A state championship game.
"It's unreal," Banks senior Hayden Vandehey said with a smile. "We couldn't have dreamed this up. This is the perfect ending to all our Banks careers."
Vandehey was the Cowapa League Player of the year and, in all, the Braves had nine athletes selected all-league or honorable mention. Head coach Joe Baumgartner was the league Coach of the Year.
With the win, Banks became just the third team in Oregon history to win state championships in football, basketball and baseball in the same school year.
Century High School appeared ready to make a state title run of their own, but were upended in the playoffs' second round by Central Catholic. The Jaguars won the Pacific Conference and claimed 10 positions on the all-league team. Micky Thompson and head coach Mason Wright were honored as the league Pitcher and Coach of the Year.
On the tennis court, Forest Grove's David Ruder and Emily Lester, along with Hillsboro's Huan Tran, all qualified for the state tennis tournament. Ruder won a Pacific Conference district title, while Lester and Tran were runners-up.
On the links, the Banks boys qualified for the state tournament for the first time in program history. The Braves team — consisting of Liam Birr, Aaron Brown, Hunter Geisbers, Jake Walters and Jaden Loza — placed eighth at the 4A event. Meanwhile, in the 6A, Forest Grove's Parker Eakin and Glencoe's Gage Landaker qualified for state.