Defending state champions will look to reclaim the league title in the incredibly competitive NWOC.

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Wilsonville junior Jack Roche will be one of the returning leaders to the Wildcats team. Last year, and the year before that, the Wilsonville Wildcats were the cream of the 5A crop. Wilsonville claimed the state championship on the back of a 27-1 record, and a 14-0 record against all teams in the Northwest Oregon Conference. The team will be looking to continue that streak of dominance going forward into this year.

It will be an interesting challenge though. Last year the Wildcat's graduated four seniors, including high school standout and current Oregon State University player Zach Reichle, along with 6'4 wing Zac Woodworth and 6'3 wing Harrison Steiger.

Returning to the fold though are several players that head coach Chris Roche is confident will lead the team back to the success it has enjoyed, including senior Caleb Larsen and junior Jack Roche. Larsen and Jack Roche received third team and second team all-league honors in the Northwest Oregon Conference last year, respectively. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Wilsonville senior Caleb Larsen was a part of the state championship winning team. Larsen will be back to help lead the team on another title hunt.

"We have two returning starters Caleb Larsen and Jack Roche, and our sixth man was Zac Rossetti, and all of three of those guys played a ton and were major contributors to our most recent state championship team," Roche said. "All of them look to be poised to be big contributors this year. Beyond those three, (sophomore) Dakota Reber, (sophomore) Keegan Shivers, and Nolan Thiebay have all done some good things in practice. They are all big and athletic, and each has some strengths that could really help us this year."

Despite the dominance the team has displayed over the last two years (the Wildcats are 29-1 in league play over the past two years), there are still some interesting challenges in the conference.

"Our league is pretty wide open from what everybody says," Roche said. "Parkrose apparently has a 6'8 transfer to go with some good returners, and LaSalle had a great season last year, so they should be good teams. Sandy and Putnam have athletic guys returning and they are both very well coached. St. Helens has almost everybody back, and Milwaukie has a nice group of young kids they are excited about. Hillsboro should be tough as well. I think most are saying they think it will be a balanced league."

The key to doing well in such a crowded, competitive league is to have the returning players fill the shoes of the leaders that have graduated.

"For us, a big key will be whether we have the leadership required to be competitive consistently night in and night out throughout league," Roche said. "We play a rough pre-season schedule, and a bunch of our guys have not even practiced yet, so there are challenges. We like big games and tough situations. But we are optimistic and hopeful that we will be better and ready to roll by the time league play rolls around. That's going to be big for us. And, again, finding great, vocal, relentlessly positive leadership is our greatest need."

The Wilsonville Wildcats play their first game against Dallas at Wilsonville High School as a part of the Holiday Inn WIT tournament on Dec. 1.

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