The Wallowa Girls Basketball Program fared better than the boys in numbers. A total of 23 girls turned out for varsity and JV positions including nine returning lettermen.
"We have a lot of kids with experience this year and they hope to pick up where they
left off last season ending the year winning six of seven games," said Wallowa Girls Coach Greg Oveson.
Returning players for the Cougars include seniors Amanda Wilson, Larae Guillory, Holli Barton, Michelle Odeguard, Sandra Deal; and juniors Mysha Oveson, Lynique Oveson, Amber Josi, Deena Tsiatsos and Megan McLain.
Plus the Cougs have transfers Sarah Bomberger and Chelsey Goodwin both of whom will probably start on varsity. Bomberger adds some size for the Cougs in the paint which will give McLain and Deal some help under the basket.
"If we can get to the level that we were at when the season finished last year by the time league play starts this year, we should be real competitive," Oveson said.
After dropping down to 1A in the Old Oregon League earlier this year Wallowa will face off against Cove who placed second in state last season. The Panthers have the majority of their varsity squad returning so they should be tough. Powder Valley and Crane also look to be tough, according to Oveson.
Travel times to schools in the Old Oregon League are a concern for the Wallowa coach with many road trips lasting six hours or more. "We're used to playing in the Wapiti League where travel distances are short. Sometimes it's hard to convince these kids that a six hour bus trip can take a lot out of them," he said.
Oveson likes his teams chances of going to district and said that if the team gels they could have a shot at participating in the state tournament.
He plans to have an up-tempo team that does a lot of running and trapping.
"We have a lot of depth so hopefully if we can keep injury free we should have a pretty good year," he said.
The EHS girls team will start out the season as young and inexperienced after graduating eight seniors from the 2001-2002 squad.
The new team begins with senior Lacey Nobles who is the only returning player on the team who has experience playing at the varsity level. Sophomores Jessie Morgan and Kallie Hadden were on the varsity team last season but didn't see much playing time. The remaining players at the varsity level include sophomores Chelcee Noland, Kayla Miller and Kayla Stoffel, plus juniors Stephanie McCready, Jennifer McCready, Jacinda Mitchell and Caitlin Baird.
"I would guess that these girls will work real hard to be a formidable team," said EHS Girls Coach Mike Crawford. "I can tell you that if we come through pre-sea son and kind of have our act together with a young team.....well, the further we go along the better we will be."
Enterprise's philosophy and style of play is going to be very similar to last season: play up-tempo, execute and attack with pressure defense.
"We will play on the strengths of the girls that we have and see what capabilities they do have once we are in the game," he said. "Right now you are looking at yourself playing against yourself. When the girls are in a game situation we will learn a lot more," he added.
Crawford said that he tries to emphasize balance and team to his players. "The better team we are the better balanced we are, and the more balanced we are the better are numbers are," he said.
As far as the season goes , Crawford sees his team somewhere in the middle of the Wapiti League pack. "We have reasonable athletes. We are young and it depends upon how well we can put the pieces together. I hope a lot of teams look over us," he said.
Back through the years Enterprise has had teams that started four or five sophomores who were decent athletes and were able to win league.
"This year I've got some girls that have some reasonable talent and are showing promise of becoming a team so it wouldn't be in anyone's best interest to assume that we were dead and gone," he said.
EHS has won seven out of eight league titles and been in the district championship game eight consecutive years and that tradition just doesn't go away with graduation.
According to Crawford there is definitely going to be some balance in the conference this year as far as the girls are concerned.
Imbler has to be the foremost team in the Wapiti League, said Crawford. He knows nothing about Grant Union (new to the league) but assumes they have the numbers and should have reasonable ability.
Union will be very strong after clinching two state championships in the fall in volleyball and cross country. "Predominantly their girls basketball team is going to come out of both of those units, so their expectations are going to be very high," Crawford said.
The number three through sixth spots will come down to who can win the tight games. " "I know that there will be tight games," Crawford said.
The E-gals have 19 girls out for the entire program this season with Head Coach Wendy McDaniel still separating some of the girls out for the varsity and JV squads.
Seniors Heather Marshall, Licia Miller, Katie Couch, Mandi Moncrief and juniors Anna Yost and Haddie Carpenter are returners from last years varsity squad.
"We have an interesting mix of talent and we're pretty scrappy," McDaniel said. According to McDaniel the Eagles have some freshmen that may see some varsity time as well plus sophomores that are really strong and fast. The juniors have height and the seniors have played varsity since they were sophomores so they are real balanced and ready to lead the team this year.
"We didn't finish as well as we wanted to last season and I know that the girls want to turn that around this year for sure," McDaniel said. "This group of seniors I've coached for four years straight now and they are ready to push their teammates at least to district," she added.
The focus is on team concept in the girls program. McDaniel sees her players contributing in different ways. "The girls are all working together really well," she said.
The Wapiti League girls should be a lot more balanced than in years past and should be exciting for the fans.
"I'm real excited the seniors have a strong supporting cast around them. Everyone has been working hard and are anxious to get a game under their belts," McDaniel said.
The Enterprise boys program has 22 players turning out which is down from years past.
Varsity players returning include seniors Tim Gilbert, Grady Rawls, Kevin Gomes, Kelsey Lukens, Brandon Kiser, junior Clay Freels plus sophomores Craig Swart, Tony Swart, and Andy Marcum.
Two new additions for the Red and Black are juniors Kyle Bohlman and Zack Gasseth who have moved up from JV.
Enterprise Basketball Coach Duff Pace said that he is hopeful the seniors will show their experience and leadership as the season progresses.
"This year's squad will have a little different dynamics," Pace said. " In some ways we could be stronger than we were last year and in other ways we are going to miss some of the leadership that was provided by graduates Kyle Crawford and Eric Stangel."
According to Pace it's hard to replace a kid like Crawford who was truly the most athletic player in the program. Stangel was the closest to a player coach that a team can have, he added.
Enterprise will try and run the same sort of game plan as last year. "We're not as tall as some teams in the league but I've got some guys that play pretty big," Pace said.
Controlling the game in the paint is part of the plan as they will try to get the ball inside to Rawls and Gilbert.
Pace said that he has some young players that, once they get their confidence, will be excellent shooters.
"They are going to have to step up and play for us this year," he said. "If everyone works together and plays as a team I'm optimistic that these kids will gel together and play the way that they are capable of playing; if they stay healthy," he added.
Last year Enterprise was fighting illness and injury all season.
Pace spent the last week and a half talking to the squad about what it takes to be a leader "It's tough sometimes to be a leader anymore because you have to set a positive example on and off of the court, in and out of the classroom. I'm a teacher first and a coach second I stress academics every week. There are more academic scholarships given in this county than athletic scholarships, Pace said.
Pace tries to stress with all of his players that academics are important and that he wants his team leaders to stress academics as well
Four boys have taken on the challenge and have been named as team leaders by the squad. Rawls, Gomes, Gilbert and Lukens will all share in the task with two of the players soon to be named team captains.
"I appreciate the boys stepping up to the challenge. Now we will see if they can walk the walk," Pace said.
"We're not real deep but the players that we have are unselfish and they play hard," said Joseph Head Coach Ron Lathrop.
The Eagles have five returners from last years varsity squad with junior Cole Lathrop as the only returner with a lot of minutes at the varsity level.
The varsity squad is made up of Lathrop, seniors, Eric Butterfield, Jake Layton, juniors, Dustin Gibbs, Andy Hayes, Tristan Gorsline, Corey Otten, Chad Johnson and sophomore Kyle Hook.
"I think right now our defense is probably our strongest suit. The offense is getting better every day, but defensively we're ready to play," Lathrop said.
The Eagles lack the playing experience of last years squad but Coach Lathrop is confident that his team will be up for the challenge by the end of pre-season.
"These kids all played together over the summer and are very familiar with the program so I feel good about that," he said. "We've got a couple of good shooters and a couple of good post players plus the kids are very unselfish with the ball, so I'm looking forward to the season. The key to the entire game is that kids know their roles whether it be shooter, rebounder or defender. If everybody plays their role we will be fine," he added.
Butterfield, Lathrop, and Otten will take up the leadership role for the team. "It's real important to have leaders on the floor," Lathrop said " When things get tough we have go-to guys and that's something that we have been blessed with," he said.
The Eagles game philosophy hasn't changed. They are going to push the ball up and down the floor,try to establish the game under the basket early and keep the defensive pressure up.
The Wapiti League will be competitive and for teams to be in the top spots they will have to be able to win the close games.
Lathrop said that Imbler will probably be the team to beat because of their experience. Everybody else should be pretty even. Enterprise has a lot of kids back from last year and they have some size so they could be pretty good.
The Wallowa Cougars boys basketball team may not have a lot of depth or a lot of experience but they will make up for it with determination.
With only 13 players total turning out for both the varsity and JV squads, Wallowa's players will see more playing time than at most schools.
The Cougars have three returning lettermen in juniors Randy Spaur and Caleb Pringle and senior Kyle McDaniel.
Wes Walker, Ryan Harshfield and Jeff Kendall are also possible varsity players plus the return of Patrick Green will help boost the roster to 14. Green is still recovering from a broken leg that he received in football earlier this year.
Other players for the Cougs include Nathan Swift, Chris Williams, Luke Service and Jake Redfield.
"The boys will have to learn to keep out of foul trouble and be able to pull down their share of the boards in the rebounding department," said Wallowa Assistant Boys Coach Greg Oveson. "We're not going to be able to pound it inside and can't afford to give up two or three shots every time down the floor," he added.
Height may also be an issue for the Cougars with Pringle standing in at 6'2".
" If our guys can keep out of foul trouble and keep the turnovers to less than 15 per game they can be real competitive in league," said Oveson.
Spaur and Pringle are going to be the team leaders for the Cougars. According to Oveson the leadership role is really important, especially on a team like Wallowa's when you have so many new kids coming in. "They have some athleticism and they're not used to being thrust into the varsity spotlight so it takes a couple teammates that have been there to keep encouraging them to keep their heads up through the tough times," he said.
"The boys have a pretty tough pre-sea son schedule so it will be interesting to see how we gather ourselves together over the first six or eight games to get ready for league," Oveson said
Due to dropping enrollment Wallowa dropped from 2A to 1A at the beginning of the school year.
The 1A powerhouse for the last couple of years has been Jordan Valley. The Mustangs finished out last season with a third place state finish after winning the 1A state title two years ago. "They lost quite a few players but should be pretty decent," Oveson said.
"Powder Valley has to be the favorite. They have a lot of good athletes and depth. Crane and Prairie City will be right in there too, so we'll have our work cut out to make district," he said.