In league with the 2A state champions, Colton has its work cut out in difficult Tri-River Conference

PIONEER PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Colton's Becca Burge was a big reason the Lady Vikings were able to bounce back against Jefferson with a 62-28 victory. Colton is 1-1 at the time of this writing.
Coach: Kyle Gilstad

2017-18: 11-13

Key losses: Grace James, Brooklyn Olsen, Katie Wills, Kaliahna Raasch

Key returners: Jenelle Baker, Becca Burge, Kaelie Gates, Maddie Travis

Outlook: The outlook is bright for the Colton girls' basketball teams. The Lady Vikings had a sub-.500 record last year at the 3A level in the PacWest Conference. Now returning to the 2A level in the Tri-River Conference, Colton should be well on its way to a postseason appearance.

Graduating four seniors last year, the team returns eight varsity players which include four juniors and four seniors. Among them are big scorers Jenelle Baker, Becca Burge, Kaelie Gates, and Maddie Travis (the seniors), and juniors Madie Beguelin, Madi Olsen, Olivia Spitzer, and Courtney Weinberger.

Head coach Kyle Gilstad is high on the talents of these returning athletes, and is excited about the depth of play that they bring.

"Maddie and Kaelie will help us with their ball handling and outside shooting abilities as well as their defensive pressure," Gilstad said of his seniors, "while Becca and Jenelle will bring us a strong duo in the paint. All four have shown the ability to be double digit scorers, and are tough defenders."

"Both Beguelin and Olsen will be big contributors with the ability to score and defend," Gilstad said of his returning juniors, "While Spitzer and Weinberger will bring us energy and toughness off the bench."

Newcomers to the varsity roster will include senior Sydney Poet, junior Emily Sharp, and freshman Olivia Haines.

The Lady Vikings will need all of the talent they can get as they find themselves in what is perhaps the toughest league in the state. The Tri-River Conference is home to defending state champion Kennedy, who ran up a 29-1 record last season.

Other top finishers in the league last year, Central Linn and St. Paul, have vacated for different divisions, but other teams will spring forward to take their places. Colton hopes to be among them.

"We will have multiple teams ranked in the top 10 throughout the season," Gilstad said. "With that being said, we have the ability to be one of the top teams in our league, but it's not going to be an easy task. We will be battling with four to six other tough teams for two playoff spots. One of those teams is the defending state champion. Every night is going to be a battle. Our girls are embracing that mindset and are eager to challenge their opponents."

First Game: Wednesday, Nov. 28 @ Portland Christian, Loss 40-39

Despite losing a razor thin game to the Portland Christian Royals in the season opener, Colton's girls' basketball team was able to bounce back against former league foe Jefferson. After going 1-2 against the Lions last season, Colton was able to dominate the now 2A team 62-28 after 32 minutes of play to improve to 1-1 on the season. Burge led the scoring with 16 points and 6 rebounds, followed closely in numbers by Haines with a 13 point game and 13 rebounds. Both Travis and Olsen had 5 steals, and a combined 9 points, 9 rebounds, and 11 assists.

"We were able to set the pace and establish control early on which led to many high percentage shots," Gilstad said. "Our defense led the way and we were able to limit our opponents to only five made baskets. This was exactly what we needed to get us back on track after a tough loss."

The Lady Vikings will square off with Vernonia on a road game on Tuesday, Dec. 6 in a non-league affair.

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