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Glad gals expect to contend in a tough TVC

Experience should bode well for the Gladiators in 2014

by: JOHN DENNY - Gladstone team captains (from left) Fiona Burrell, Molly Webster, Mikaela Simac and Kendall Schumaker have their reservations in for Corvallis and Gil Coliseum.The Gladstone Gladiators expect a three-team dogfight for the title in Tri-Valley Conference girls basketball this winter, and they expect to be in it.

The Gladiators return 11 letter winners from last year’s team that tied for second in the TVC, including eight players who either started or played a lot last season.

“We’ve scheduled a very tough preseason,” said Gladstone coach Pat Scott. “Our goal is to continue to improve so that we’re playing our best and can make the final eight at the end of the season.”

Scott has no illusions of it being a cakewalk in the TVC.

“I think the league will be tougher than last year,” said Scott. “La Salle, Madras and ourselves, the top three finishers [in league in 2013], all three of us, have almost everybody back.”

The Gladiators have good reason to be optimistic about their chances. They return four full-time starters: senior Fiona Burrell (5-8 guard) and juniors Molly Webster (5-9 guard), Mikaela Simac (5-8 point guard) and Melisa Campos (5-3 guard).

Seeing her third year as starting action, Webster was named the TVC “Player of the Year” last season.

Simac was a second-team league all-star as a sophomore. Burrell received honorable mention in the TVC all-star balloting, as did returning junior Alicia Feb (5-9 forward). One of the first players off this bench last season, Feb is starting this season.

The Gladiators also return a veteran player in senior Nichole Petersen (5-8 guard), who was a part-time starter a year ago.

Among other returnees are: seniors Kendall Schumaker (5-5 guard) and Jessica Coiteux (5-10 guard), junior Micala Delepierre (6-2 forward), and sophomores Jessica Petersen (5-7 guard), Ashley Henry (5-2 guard).

Schumaker and Petersen both saw lots of playing time in 2012-13.

The only player new to the varsity roster this year is junior MaKayla Imholt (5-4 guard), who did not play basketball last season.

“One of our main goals this year is to finally make it to Gil Coliseum,” said Burrell. “We’ve been a game away every year. We’ve been working hard and we believe we can make it this year.”

Schumaker said she expects La Salle and Madras to provide stiff competition in league.

“La Salle is always big competition for us,” she said. “Madras has one very good player. If we can shut her down, I think we can beat them.”

“The key is going to be working hard in practice,” said Burrell. “If we work hard in practice, it will carry over into games.”

“We’re not very tall, so we have to use our speed and quickness and work together,” Schumaker said.

The Gladiators have had some pretty stiff competition in preseason. They went 2-2 in their first four games, defeating Scappoose (37-32) and Yamhill-Carlton (67-16), but losing to Philomath (58-51 in overtime) and to defending state champion Mazama (46-28). Mazama and Philomath last week were ranked third and tenth in the state respectively in Class 4A.

The Gladiators struggled to get the ball to drop, making only 18 percent of their shots from the floor (11-of-59) in the loss to Mazama.

“We’ve been working on our shooting in practice,” said Burrell.

“As the season goes along, we’ll definitely get better,” Schumaker said.

“We were getting good looks,” said Scott. “It was just one of those nights. I do feel good that we were able to get 59 shots off against one of the top teams.”

The Gladiators return to the hardcourt this Friday, when they meet 12th-ranked Elmira in a first-round game of a tournament at seventh-ranked Cascade.

They entertain La Salle in their league opener on Jan. 21.

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