In age of offense, White Buffalos need to clamp down if they want a Tri-Valley title

Part of the Madras High School gym's makeover has been the addition of banners that display the years each sport has won a district championship, and head boys basketball coach Allen Hair wants to add another year to his team's banner.

With official practices for winter sports beginning on Nov. 19, Hair has had about a week and a half with this year's herd of White Buffalos, and he already sees glimpses of potential greatness in them.

"I think we have enough talent to win the league title," Hair said. "We've got a pretty good balance, and we might not be as deep as we have been, but we've got the potential to be very good."

How are the Buffs going to improve upon their 5-5 Tri-Valley Conference record of last season? According to Hair, it will be with defense.

And that's a good place to start for the team that allowed the most points per game in the conference last season at 55.1. Hair said the first week of practice has mostly been dedicated to learning defensive concepts and principles.

"Defense wins championships," Hair said, "plain and simple. We have spent a lot of time working on individual defensive fundamentals, and touching base on how to do everything we can defensively."

In the Buffs' fastbreak style of basketball, playing defense has historically had a tendency to be somewhat of an afterthought, but if this team can stay tough on that end of the floor, the offense should come relatively easy with the scoring options available.

During the long season, the offense will misfire and sputter, and Hair knows that. The team will have to lean on its commitment to defense, and perhaps win a type of game they may not have last season.

"We need to control the things we can control," Hair said. "One of those things is how hard we play, especially on defense. There will be nights we won't be able to hit water if we were in a boat in the middle of the ocean, and those nights we'll have to be able to defend to keep us close."

When the offense clicks, however, the Buffs are typically one of the most prolific scoring teams in the conference. Last season, Madras scored 56.8 points per game — second behind conference champion La Salle - but this year will have to do it with an almost all new set of players.

The lone 2013 conference all-star returning to the team is junior point guard Jered Pichette, but being paired with junior forward Devon Wolfe could create a dynamic scoring combination for the Buffs.

"Jered and Devon will get their points," Hair said. "If I was the coach of another team, my goal would be to contain one of them, and that's why we're going to need solid scoring from a couple other guys."

It doesn't have to be 20 points a night from someone else either, Hair said. It needs to be something that keeps the other teams honest and pulls a double-team off Pichette or Wolfe, which Hair thinks he can get.

Roaming the paint for the Buffs will be 6-foot-6 post Brent Sullivan, and Hair thinks he's going to open some eyes during his first season as a full-time varsity player.

"I think he's going to surprise some people," Hair said of Sullivan. "We should be a pretty fun group to watch."

A Madras team wouldn't be a Madras team if it didn't have multiple long-range shooting threats. While Pichette and Wolfe can both knock down perimeter jumpers, Hair thinks senior Reshaun Holliday could be one of the guys that provides enough offense from beyond the arc to make teams respect him.

"It will be scoring by committee after Jered and Devon, so we'll need to guys to step up and give us solid numbers," Hair said. "Reshaun is a great outside shooter, so that will help us out quite a bit."

The Buffs will open the season Dec. 6, in Prineville against Crook County, but then will play its next four games inside the Buffalo Dome. They will take on Class 5A teams Bend and Summit, along with 4A Henley and Sisters, before playing in two holiday tournaments in Stayton and Seaside.

They'll play three more nonconference games before they open up Tri-Valley play Jan. 21 against North Marion and all-conference guard Kyle Williamson.

"No one is bad enough in this league you can just get by them," Hair said. "You've got to play your best every night, and with the tradition Madras has, we're going to get everybody's best."

Hair thinks La Salle will be in the hunt for a league title in its last season in the TVC, and he said Gladstone will probably have a solid team as well.

The Buffs won't be able to take a night off if they want to reach their goal of winning the TVC championships, and Hair will do all he can to bring the title to Madras.

"We've got to make sure we show up every night," Hair said. "We've only got two years on our banner hanging up in the gym, and that's some motivation for us."

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