Sports Zone

Winter Sports Previews: Boys Basketball

COTTAGE GROVE LIONS

Head coach: Seth Hutchison, 6th year, 36-72 overall

2022-23 season: 10-15 overall, 2-6 Sky-Em League, ranked #22, Lost in Play-In at North Marion

State titles: 1 (1991)

School colors: Dark Blue and Gold

Top Returners

Gannon Leach, Guard, Sr., 2022-23 Honorable Mention All-league

Cole Kishen, Forward, Sr., 2022-23 2nd-team All-league

Top opponents

■Junction City (1/23 home, 2/9 away)

■Marist (1/19 home, 2/6 away)

Senior Night

■Feb. 13 vs. North Bend, 7 p.m.

Pierre’s take: Last year, it looked like the Lions turned their season around with a three-game win streak midseason. But CG finished on an eight-game losing streak, which is sure to leave a sour taste in the mouth of any returner. The Lions return captain Leach and 2nd-team all-league Kishen as they try to make the postseason for the first time in the Hutchison era.

Schedule

12/1 vs. Sweet Home, 7:15 p.m.*

12/5 @ Newport, 5:30 p.m.*

12/8-9 Tournament @ Marist

12/12 @ Sisters, 6 p.m.*

12/14-12/16 Tournament @ CGHS

12/20 vs. Yamhill-Carlton, 5:45 p.m.*

12/27-29 Tournament @ Stayton

1/2 vs. Phoenix, 7:15 p.m.*

1/6 Tournament @ Junction City

1/9 vs. Klamath Union, 5:45 p.m.*

1/16 @ Marshfield, 5:45 p.m.

1/19 vs. Marist Catholic, 5:45 p.m.

1/23 vs. Junction City, 5:45 p.m.

1/26 @ North Bend, 5:45 p.m.

2/2 vs. Marshfield, 7:15 p.m.

2/6 @ Marist Catholic, 7:15 p.m.

2/9 @ Junction City, 7:15 p.m.

2/13 vs. North Bend, 7 p.m.

* = Non-league game

CRESWELL BULLDOGS

Head coach: Jesse Thomas, 8th year, 97-62 overall

2022-23 season: 22-5 overall, 11-1 Mountain Valley Conference, ranked #7, Won MVC, Finished 4th at state tournament

State titles: 3 (1969, 2000, ‘04)

School colors: Red, White, and Black

Boosters: creswellhsboosters.org/#portfolio

Returning starters: 1

Top returners

Tyler Whitson, Guard, Jr., 2022/23: Mountain Valley Conference Honorable Mention, 9.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG in 26 minutes-per-game

Carson Williamson, Forward, Sr., 2022-23: 5 PPG, 4.5 RPG in 16 minutes-per-game

Asher Parsons, Guard, Sr., 2022-23: 4.5 PPG in 14 minutes-per-game

Notable newcomer

Riley Smith, Forward, Jr.

Team strengths

■Length, defensive versatility and speed

■Offensive rebounding

■Transition offense

Top opponents

■Pleasant Hill (1/9 home, 1/30 away)

■Junction City (12/6 away)

■Western Christian (12/4 home)

Senior Night

■Feb. 13 vs. Siuslaw, 7:30 p.m.

Pierre’s take: Creswell is coming off a 4th-place finish at state and a Mountain Valley Conference title, but lost starters Connor Hanson, Max Velarde, AJ Hodge, and Jack Nguyen to graduation. Creswell likely will struggle early as junior Whitson, the lone starter returning from last year, will carry a heavy load offensively as more of the inexperienced Bulldogs get up to speed.

Schedule

12/1 Tour. @ Coquille, 7:30 p.m.

12/2 vs. Lakeview, 3:30 p.m.*

12/4 vs. Western Christian, 7 p.m.*

12/6 @ Junction City, 5:45 p.m.*

12/8 vs. North Bend, 7 p.m.*

12/14-16 Tour. @ Creswell, TBD

12/19 vs. Jefferson, 7 p.m.*

12/20 @ Marist Catholic, 6 p.m.*

12/29-30 Tour. @ Oakland, 7 p.m.

1/3 vs. La Pine, 6 p.m.

1/5 @ Elmira, 6 p.m.

1/9 vs. Pleasant Hill, 6 p.m.

1/12 @ Harrisburg, 6 p.m.

1/17 vs. Sisters, 6 p.m.

1/23 @ Siuslaw, 6 p.m.

1/25 @ La Pine, 7:30 p.m.

1/27 vs. Elmira, 7:30 p.m.

1/30 @ Pleasant Hill, 7:30 p.m.

2/2 vs. Harrisburg, 7:30 p.m.

2/6 @ Sisters, 7:30 p.m.

2/13 vs. Siuslaw, 7:30 p.m.

* = Non-league game

PLEASANT HILL BILLIES

Head coach: Darwin Terry, 3rd year, 39-15 overall

2022-23 season: 21-7 overall, 9-3 Mountain Valley Conference, ranked #8, Lost in quarterfinals vs. Westside Christian

State titles: 4 (1947, ‘62, ‘65, ‘99)

School colors: Navy and Gold

Top returners

Gavin Inglish, Guard, Jr., 2022-23 Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year, 1st-team All-state

Matthew Nguyen, Guard, Sr., 2022-23 1st-team All-league, All-defense

Landen Melvin, Guard, Soph., 2022-23 Honorable Mention All-league

Top opponents

■Henley (1/13 away)

■Amity (11/29 away)

■Creswell (1/9 away, 1/30 home)

Senior Night

■Feb. 9 vs. Elmira, 7:30 p.m.

Pierre’s take: The Billies are the early favorites to win the Mountain Valley Conference as they return MVC Player of the Year Inglish, as well as his backcourt partners in defensive-specialist Nguyen and sharpshooter Melvin. Pleasant Hill did graduate captain and starting big-man Brooks Wilcox, but 6-foot-7 senior Sawyer Ireland will take his place and could be an X-factor for the Billies.

Schedule

11/29 @ Amity, 7:30 p.m.*

12/1 vs. Lakeview, 6:30 p.m.*

12/5 vs. Salem Academy, 6 p.m.*

12/7 vs. Western Christian, 7 p.m.*

12/9 vs. Coquille, 11 a.m.*

12/14-16 Tour. @ Pleasant Hill, TBD

12/21-23 Tournament @ Cascade Christian, TBD

12/29 @ Monroe, 3 p.m.*

1/3 @ Sisters, 6 p.m.

1/5 vs. Harrisburg, 6 p.m.

1/9 @ Creswell, 6 p.m.

1/13 @ Henley, 5:30 p.m.

1/17 @ Siuslaw, 6 p.m.

1/19 @ Elmira, 6 p.m.

1/23 vs. La Pine, 6 p.m.

1/25 vs. Sisters, 7:30 p.m.

1/27 @ Harrisburg, 7:30 p.m.

1/30 vs. Creswell, 7:30 p.m.

2/6 vs. Siuslaw, 7:30 p.m.

2/9 vs. Elmira, 7:30 p.m.

2/13 @ La Pine, 7:30 p.m.

* = Non-league game

SPRINGFIELD MILLERS

Head coach: T.C. Combs, 1st year

2022-23 season: 2-20 overall, 0-12 Midwestern League, ranked #29, Missed playoffs

School colors: Blue and White

Boosters: millersathletics.com/springfield-high-school-booster-club/

Top returner

Isaiah Navarrete, Forward, Sr., 2022-23 Honorable Mention All-League

Top opponents

■N. Eugene (1/9 home, 2/6 away)

■Grants Pass (12/4 away)

■Churchill (1/16 away, 2/13 home)

Senior Night

■Feb. 13 vs. Marist, 6:45 p.m.

Pierre’s take: First-year head coach T.C. Combs takes over a Springfield program that has gone 5-41 the past two seasons, including an 18-game losing streak to end last season. The Millers did graduate only one senior, and return honorable mention all-league Navarrete. The upside is Springfield has six non-league games and two tournaments to find its footing before diving into a competitive Midwestern League.

Schedule

12/1-2 Tour. @ Centennial, TBD

12/4 @ Sheldon, 6:45 p.m.*

12/6 vs. Ridgeview, 6:45 p.m.*

12/8 vs. Silverton, 6:45 p.m.*

12/14 @ Grants Pass, 7 p.m.*

12/20 vs. Crescent Valley, 6:45 p.m.*

12/27-29 Tour. @ South Medford, TBD

1/3 @ Willamette, 6:45 p.m.*

1/5 @ Crater, 5:15 p.m.

1/9 vs. North Eugene, 6:45 p.m.

1/12 @ Ashland, 7 p.m.

1/16 @ Churchill, 7:30 p.m.

1/23 vs. Thurston, 7 p.m.

1/26 vs. Eagle Point, 7 p.m.

2/2 vs. Crater, 7 p.m.

2/6 @ North Eugene, 6:45 p.m.

2/9 vs. Ashland, 7 p.m.

2/13 vs. Churchill, 6:45 p.m.

2/16 vs. Marist Catholic, 6:45 p.m.*

2/20 @ Thurston, 7 p.m.

2/23 @ Eagle Point, 5:30 p.m.

* = Non-league game

THURSTON COLTS

Head coach: Blaine Liberatore, 9th year, 101-90 overall

2022-23 season: 13-11 overall, 6-6 Midwestern League, ranked #15, Missed playoffs

State titles: 1 (2018)

School colors: Red, Black, and White

Returning starters: 4

Top returners

Nate Stiffler, Forward, Jr., 2022-23: 1st-team All-league, led team with 12.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG; tied single-game record with six 3s (vs. Eagle Point). Coach says: “Scoring at a high level at all three levels; has improved massively on the defensive end.”

Walker Bonar, Guard, Sr., 2022-23: 2nd-team All-league, 12.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG.

Noah Blair, Guard, Jr., 2022-23: 6.3 PPG on 35% shooting from three, 3 RPG, 1.5 APG. Coach says: “One of team’s best shooters and finishers. Crafty with the ball in his hands.”

Luke Newell, Forward, Sr., 2022-23: 5 PPG, 6 RPG. Coach says: “As hard a worker as you will find. Rebounds at a high level, especially at the offensive end of the floor.”

Notable newcomers

Lucas Labounty, Guard, Soph. Coach says: “Skilled 6-foot-2 guard; great with the ball in his hands. Crafty scorer from all three levels.”

Logan Piquette, Guard/Forward, Soph. Coach says: “Great leader and defender. Makes everyone around him better and plays with great intensity and motor. Improved shooter and scorer who can play all five positions.”

Elijah Wilkins, Guard, Jr. Coach says: “Lightning quick guard who is a good scorer both at the rim and from deep.”

Matthew Newell, Guard/Forward, Soph. Coach says: “Ultra-competitive. Great in the mid-range and as a rebounder. Runs the floor hard and scores in transition often.”

Team strengths

■Shooting/Scoring

■Individual Defense

■Depth

Top opponents

■North Eugene (1/16 away, 2/13 home)

■Crater (1/26 away, 2/23 home)

■Mountain View (12/12 away)

Senior Night

■Feb. 23 vs. Crater, 7 p.m.

Pierre’s take: Thurston was the highest-ranked team to not make the playoffs last year, a fact that surely stings for Liberatore and any returners. Five seniors graduated from that team, but junior big-man Stiffler and senior guard Bonar were the two best players on last year’s team and return. Stiffler has the potential to blossom into a dangerous big for the Colts, who look to make the postseason for the first time since 2019.

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