Oregon City girls get ready for Hawaii
A year ago, the Oregon City girls basketball team was getting primed to challenge South Medford, Central Catholic, Clackamas, Westview and the rest of the elite girls basketball world on the way to a state title.
But, they ran into one big problem - themselves, and lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament to a league rival they’d beaten twice already by an average of 27 points.
“Last year’s loss was a big deal because we didn’t give it our all,” says guard Montana Walters, one of 11 seniors on the team. “We should have easily won that game.
“We ended up fighting a lot in the season. We’re around each other a lot, and it’s like a sister - you fight a lot.”
This year, the Pioneers have worked on getting over that hurdle on their way to a trip to Hawaii for the second-straight year to play in the eight-team Iolani Classic beginning Thursday.
“We’ve become a lot closer as a team this year,” Walters says. “Law year really woke us up to how important that is.”
Oregon City has four players headed for college programs, including Walters and 6-foot post Johanna Paine, who have both signed to play at Santa Clara of the West Coast Conference.
Catelyn Preston is headed for Northern Arizona of the Big Sky and Jenae Paine will play at NCAA Div. II Metro State of Denver.
A core of college-bound seniors is nothing new for Oregon City, but the team’s leaders, Walters and Johanna Paine, have, coach Kurt Guelsdorf says, done a fantastic job of creating a highly supportive team environment.
“I really like how they’ve worked to bring the girls together, and not just the seniors, but the younger girls, too,” he says. “That’s the kind of thing we love to see and they’re doing it.
“That’s great leadership.”
Johanna Paine, one of four returning starters, says working with the program’s younger players has helped focus the varsity team beyond itself.
“We want the younger girls to get better and keep the program strong after we leave,” Paine says. “But, we really want to win a title. None of us have won one and that’s really important. This is the time.”
In Hawaii, the Pioneers will have a chance to play teams from Florida, Texas, even China as well as the host state. The boys portion of the tournament, which is 16 teams, includes Oak Hill Academy.
Oregon City’s trip is seven days, only three of which include basketball.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the beach,” Walters says. “We’re going to spend a lot of time on the beach.