Sports Zone

HSSZ: Week of Jan. 4 Previews


Game facts: Class 6A No. 6 Willamette (7-4) at 5A No. 4 Springfield (7-4); Wednesday, Jan. 3, 6:45 p.m.
Tipping off: The Millers host the Wolverines in a matchup between the two top Lane County teams. Back-to-back defending 5A Player of the Year Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam faces off with Willamette junior Brynn Smith – who was honorable mention all-state last season. Willamette took this game 40-31 a year ago, so it should be another great matchup to begin 2024.


Cottage Grove: 8-4, ranked #10
Tipping off: Cottage Grove, already with twice as many wins as last season, finishes its non-league play against No. 5 Klamath Union on Tuesday. Lions guards Jaylee Lima and Mariah Bailey made the all-tournament team at the North Marion tourney last week.

Creswell: 7-5, ranked #12
Tipping off: Creswell opens conference play with games against La Pine and Elmira before hosting rival No. 5 Pleasant Hill in a rematch of the Battle of I-5 finals – a game the Bulldogs lost 53-46. Senior captains Dakota Carson and Lauren Bailey lead the Bulldogs on both ends.

Pleasant Hill: 5-4, ranked #5
Tipping off: Similar to the boys team, the Billies girls are the only MVC team ranked inside the top 10. Led by the reigning MVC Player of the Year Claire Crawford, the Billies begin conference play against Sisters and Harrisburg before traveling to rival No. 12 Creswell next Tuesday.

Thurston: 3-7, ranked #26
Tipping off: A tough non-league record has the Colts at 3-7, but Thurston opens league play with games against two 2-8 teams in Ashland and Churchill. A 2-0 start to the Midwestern League could do wonders for senior leader Bailey Tovey and the Colts.


Cottage Grove Lions: 7-5, ranked #18
Tipping off: The Lions finish their non-league schedule with a game at the Sky-Em/Skyline Crossover at Junction City and a home game against Klamath Union next Tuesday. Cottage Grove will likely continue to run its offense through seniors Gannon Leach and Cole Kishen, as well as freshman Trevor Cooper.

Creswell Bulldogs: 6-6, ranked #20
Tipping off: Mountain Valley Conference play begins for the Bulldogs, who’ve had an up-and-down non-league schedule. Creswell is the 4th-highest ranked team in the MVC, though, and the top three make the playoffs. Creswell’s big first test is on Tuesday at home against No. 2 Pleasant Hill. Junior Tyler Whitson – averaging 12.6 points a game – will be key against the Billies.

Pleasant Hill Billies: 9-2, ranked #2
Tipping off: Pleasant Hill – favorites to win the Mountain Valley Conference – begin conference play against Sisters, Harrisburg, and Creswell this week. Along with junior Gavin Inglish (24.9 ppg), sophomore Landen Melvin is helping lead the Billies with 16.7 ppg.

Springfield Millers: 3-7, ranked #24
Tipping off: The Millers open Midwestern League play against the top-two ranked teams in the MWL. Springfield travels to No. 6 Crater on Friday before hosting No. 1 North Eugene next Tuesday. The Millers were 0-12 in league play last season and will need junior Vinnie Trinka to continue to score well to pull off any upsets this week.

Thurston Colts: 7-4, ranked #16
Tipping off: Thurston opens MWL play with two home games against Ashland and Churchill. The Colts finished fourth in the MWL last season and just missed the postseason, and come into league play ranked as the fourth-highest team in the MWL. Juniors Noah Blair and Nate Stiffler will be key against the two teams ranked just below the Colts in the league.


Notes from around our area teams’ conferences:

Three league teams at No. 1

■ Three teams in our area conferences enter league play ranked No. 1 in their respective Classes. The North Eugene boys of the Midwestern League are the top-ranked team in Class 5A thanks to a 10-2 record. The Highlanders are led by senior captains Jonas Spencer and Joey Banry.

■ The Junction City boys of the Sky-Em League moved to 12-1 after going 3-0 at the Sisters HS Shootout. The Tigers enter Sky-Em play ranked No. 1.

■ Another 5A team enters Midwestern League play as No. 1 – the Crater Comets girls basketball team. Sisters Sage and Abby Winslow lead the 10-1 Comets, who fell to No. 1 Springfield 70-55 in last season’s state semifinal game.



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