Community, Sports Zone

Billies buy into brand-new start, work to play ‘last day of season’

PLEASANT HILL – The new-look Pleasant Hill Billies girls basketball team got off to a tough start to the season, losing 62-41 at preseason No. 2 Amity last Wednesday. Fourth-ranked Pleasant Hill bounced back in a big way in its first home game under first-year head coach Paxton Miller, though, handling No. 5 Lakeview 40-25 behind a stifling defense that forced 29 Lakeview turnovers.

“I liked our competitive spirit and our effort. We talked a lot about multiple efforts,” Miller said. “I thought that we did a good job of that tonight. I told them at halftime: Win, lose, or draw, I was just proud of how hard they seemed to be playing. And I told them if you do it for two more quarters, the result would be good, and that’s what happened.”

Miller is in his first year coaching girls basketball at the high-school level after serving as a boys assistant varsity coach and JV head coach for three seasons at Sheldon. He previously coached the boys freshman/JV team at Springfield while being a varsity assistant for five seasons. It’s been an adjustment coming to Pleasant Hill, and coaching girls, but Miller stressed his appreciation for the group he has this year.

“I told them, I’m just super grateful to have a group – I’m brand new to them, whole new staff, a whole new system – that has the willingness to learn and compete like that,” Miller said. “It’s not going to be pretty always, but I think that by the end of the year, if we stay the course we’ll be okay.”

The new-look Billies also lost multiple key members from last season’s team that went 23-3 and finished 6th at the state tournament. Starting guards Shyanne Fenley and Kiley Campos graduated, and starter Cheyenne Green isn’t playing basketball this season as the Oregon State volleyball commit is focusing on one sport.

With a new coach, new system, and only two returning starters, it’s understandable why the Billies started slow at Amity. After trailing by 6 at half, Amity outscored Pleasant Hill 20-6 in the third quarter to run away. Claire Crawford, the reigning Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year, led Pleasant Hill with 11 points, and left-handed freshman Karsyn Stapleton had 7.

“I thought that at Amity, we were a little shell shocked. I mean, they’re a top-two team, and there is a lot of continuity there. And we’re kind of a new group,” Miller said. “I don’t think we were ready for that level of intensity and kind of physicality that they threw at us.” 

Miller said the team had a short practice last Thursday to prepare for Lakeview, and whatever the Billies did at practice seemed to work as Pleasant Hill jumped on Lakeview early and never looked back. Stapleton led the way with 17 points, and Crawford had 11 points and 8 rebounds.

One of the more important pieces of the Lakeview win was the defense. Pleasant Hill had the best scoring defense in Class 3A last season, but Fenley and Campos were big parts of that. Sole senior Raigan Obie has picked up the slack, recording 5 steals and helping the defense hold Lakeview to 18.2% shooting from the field to go along with the 29 turnovers.

“We talked about her as a team there (after the game). And I told them once during time out, this is why I love to coach – watching you compete like this. Just the number of times where (Raigan’s) chasing something down or even the deflections,” Miller said. “She probably had just as many deflections as she had steals. And when I talk about multiple efforts, I mean, she’s dog tired, but she’s still competing at the highest level that she can.”

Miller understands that things may move slowly and won’t always look great as the team learns its strengths and weaknesses. But he noted the team’s goal “was not to beat Lakeview this year; it was not to beat Amity. It’s to play our best basketball by the end of January and February.”

“The No. 1 goal is we want to be playing our best basketball by the end of the year. For the team goals, we’ve talked about winning league, we think that that’s realistic. And we’d love to make it back to state, that’s kind of the next goal,” Miller said. “The last goal will be our goal every year as a program; we want to play on the last day of the tournament. That means, you’re playing for a trophy.”



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