The Outlaws want to continue where they left.

Last winter, Enterprise High School boys' basketball defied the odds and earned a spot in the Blue Mountain Conference tournament. Dreadful for two months, the Outlaws lost their first seven games against league foes and finished with an overall record of 7-18. But they won five of their last eight games, including an unscheduled playoff against Weston-McEwen High, and sneaked into the post-season tourney. Now, the team welcomes back most of those battle-tested players.

"I feel a lot better about this team," fourth-year head coach Steve Lear said, "than I did at the same time last year. Actually, there's something about this preseason that feels better than any of the last four years."

Since last season, the Outlaws lost only two boys. But they happened to be instrumental to the team's drastic improvement. Senior guard Kyle Stewart graduated after discovering late in the season that he could shoot from three-point range. He earned All-District honors. Then, Kasey O'Leary died Aug. 18 from an automobile crash. As a freshman, O'Leary had quickly become one of the top players on varsity.

However, most of the other juvenile bandits return for this season. Seniors Matt Fisher (6-foot-4) and Dusty McAuliffe (6-3), along with junior Jacob Girtz, comprise a solid frontcourt. Fisher slowly developed into a dominating forward. In the last game at home against Weston-McEwen, he scored 28 points as the Outlaws forced the impromptu playoff. McAuliffe showed potential, while Girtz was impressive as a sophomore.

Meanwhile, senior Trenton Neil leads a deep backcourt. Overall last season, he was the Outlaws' top scorer as an especially potent three-point shooter. The perimeter also features seniors Tyler Warner, Steve Simpson and Dakota Hull. Hull returns to Quinn Court after moving back to Enterprise from Las Vegas, Nevada. As a sophomore with the Outlaws, he made contributions on a team loaded with seniors. Also among this year's guards, the Outlaws have sophomores Chaunce Galletly, Kyle Stangel and Matt Perren coming back. Perren played sparingly last winter on varsity but stood out on JV as a top scorer.

After transforming last season's Outlaws into a competitive team, Lear is confident with so many returning players. He organized the new team around his favorite style of basketball: "Run, press and shoot," he said. "I've never had a program that bought into that so collectively, from seventh grade clear on up to varsity, until now."

The Outlaws begin playing Dec. 2 at Wallowa High School. The boys' game follows the girls' match, which is set for 5:30 p.m.

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