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Colton girls' basketball coach Kyle Gilstad looks back at the season that was

PIONEER PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Colton senior Kaelie GatesColton's girls' basketball team had an up and down 2018-2019 season, but it wasn't bereft of solid moments. The squad put together a 9-16 season, and managed to find a way into an extra game late in the season. That 9-16 record could have easily been 19-6 had a few moments gone Colton's way, as the Lady Vikings had 10 games decided by 10 points or fewer, including that league playoff game against Santiam.

"Despite our struggles this season, the girls fought hard to earn an extra game," Colton coach Kyle Gilstad said. "We made playoffs in a league that had five teams ranked No. 14 or better on OSAA. Every night in our league was a battle and they never stopped fighting."

Colton's 6-8 Tri-River Conference (TRC) record secured sixth place in league, and the 22nd rank in the state at 2A. Not too shabby considering there are 47 teams in the state at the 2A level. Colton's offense also recorded 959 points over the course of the season, while allowing 1,038 against. Despite over 1,000 points against, the team gave up less and less points towards the seasons end, as Gilstad pointed out.

"Our biggest improvement this season would be our team defense," Gilstad said. "We held our league opponents under 40 points in nine of our 14 league games, including the final four games."

The players grew in their roles as well. Gilstad noted that all of his players were well rounded in athletics, but also in school and socially. It's something Gilstad is proud of his squad for, and he noted a pair of seniors in leading that standard.

"Leadership wise, (senior) Becca Burge really stepped up to be that vocal leader for us, and (senior) Kaelie Gates was our inspirational leader," Gilstad said.

While the losses were difficult in the season, Gilstad and his coaching staff were constantly reminded by the players that losing happens, but the effort is where you can hang your hat.

"Sometimes we get stuck focusing on the wins and losses and forget about the growth along the way," Gilstad said. "In the end, it's only a game and the life lessons we take away from it are the real prize."

Some of the key memories that stick out for Gilstad, when he looks back at the season that was, include nail biters and strong league wins. Besting Gervais by a free throw courtesy of freshman Olivia Haines, a rivalry win against 4A Estacada, and stealing the league playoff spot from Culver on the road.

The grind of the league season was something Gilstad was thankful for at the end of the day. Though the team was handed losses, they battled each and every night for the wins they got and earned their stripes along the way.

"We played a lot of good basketball against a lot of good teams," Gilstad said. "We were challenged by some of the best teams that the state had to offer and while the wins were hard to come by, they were definitely earned. I'd rather be challenged every night and struggle, than skate through the season with ease."

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