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Guelsdorf sees his Pioneers as contenders


The youthful Pioneers make a phenomenal run in the TRL

by: JAMIE VALDEZ - Oregon City sophomore post Taylor Shaw (center) battles Caitlin Malvar (left) and Morgan Haskin for a loose ball in last weeks pay-back win over the West Linn Lions.After an amazing run in the Three Rivers League, Oregon City girls basketball coach Kurt Guelsdorf believes that his Pioneers have a shot at the Class 6A state title. But he acknowledges that it won’t be easy.

“I believe the state tournament field is wide open,” Guelsdorf said. “There’s lots of parity state-wide.

“We have a great opportunity, if things go well, to win a state title. But I also believe Clackamas, West Linn, Westview, South Medford, St. Mary’s, South Salem, Tigard and Canby can say the same thing.

“Coming from the best league in Oregon, I believe we are battled tested and ready. Of course, every single game will be a great challenge.”

Three Rivers League teams certainly did prove themselves during the regular season. Entering postseason, the league had four of its six teams in the top 11 in the OSAA’s final 43-team RPI rankings, which rank teams based on their win-loss records and the toughness of their schedules.

Three Rivers League champion Oregon City (17-6, 9-1) enters the state playoffs ranked second only to South Medford (22-3). TRL runner-up Clackamas (19-5, 8-2) was ranked No. 4, just back of St. Mary’s (20-4). West Linn (17-6, 6-4) was ranked ninth and Canby (16-8, 5-5) was ranked eleventh.

The Pioneers, in 23 regular season games, have outscored their opponents by an average of 24 points a game, 65-44.

Oregon City’s success heading into the playoffs has been nothing short of phenomenal, because the Pioneers began this season with a youthful and inexperienced varsity lineup, having graduated 11 seniors — including all five starters — from last year’s team.

Guelsdorf explained the Pioneers’ success:

“The biggest factor in our ability to win the TRL this year is our culture and tradition of hard work. Oregon City players are not afraid of hard work. They are very willing to sacrifice for the team, and are extremely unselfish.

“Another factor is senior Leadership. Jessica Gertz, Toria Bradford, Alyssa Durr, and Stephanie Tolke all provided great leadership on a daily basis. Pioneer tradition is a big deal, and those four upheld that tradition each and every day.”

The Pioneers had plenty of senior leadership in last week’s league final with West Linn, a convincing 61-46 win that avenged an earlier loss.

Senior starters Gertz (9 points), Bradford (11 points) and Durr (11 points) joined sophomore guard Cierra Walker (16 points, 4 assists) as the leading scorers in the game.

Bradford had a team-high six assists; Durr claimed a team-high seven rebounds.

The Pioneers led the entire game. Walker made it 3-0 when she was fouled on the fast-break and turned a layup into a three-point play. Durr drove the lane to make it 5-2; and Gertz hit a 3-pointer to make it 8-2 and put the Pioneers in the driver’s seat.

West Linn battled, and stayed close in the first half. But Bradford’s 3-pointer at the horn ending the first half made it 28-22 Oregon City.

And the Pioneers forced turnovers on four straight possessions early in the third period, as they took control.

Walker hit a 3-point basket, a fast-break bucket and 2-of-2 free throws during an 8-0 run, making it 39-26 Oregon City 3-1/2 minutes into the third stanza.

Oregon City sophomore post Katie Kammerer came off the bench to score a rebound basket and two layups as the third quarter was winding down, and it was all over but the shouting, with Oregon City up 45-30 heading into the final period.

Gertz, Durr and Bradford combined to go 6-for-8 from the charity stripe in the fourth period, and the Lions never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.

“This was our last game in the Three Rivers League and we wanted to go out with a win,” said Gertz.

The Pioneer senior leader added: “If we keep up the hard work and play like we did tonight, I think we’ll be successful [in postseason], as we work towards our goal of a [state] championship.”

“It think the key tonight was shutting them down at the 3-point line,” said Bradford.

“It was tough defense and giving a lot of effort into shutting down their 3-point shooters,” echoed Walker.

The Lions were only 2-of-17 from beyond the arc in last week’s loss. Earlier they had hit twelve 3-pointers in a 69-61 come-from-behind upset of their rivals.

“It was a good team effort, and I’m really proud of our team for coming back and redeeming ourselves,” said Walker. “West Linn’s our biggest rival, so this was a really big win for us.”

“Depending on how the brackets end up and where we are seeded, I think we have a real good chance [of winning state],” said Bradford.

“I think we have a pretty good chance,” Walker said. “We just have to push as hard as we can.”

Heading into the state playoffs, Oregon City’s offensive leaders were Gertz (15.7 ppg), Walker (13.0 ppg, 4.1 assists per game), sophomore Taylor Shaw (11.2 ppg) and Bradford (8.0 ppg, 5.1 assists per game).

Shaw was averaging a team-leading 7.2 rebounds; Bradford was averaging a team-leading three steals.

Oregon City was to begin postseason play on Tuesday (March 4), hosting Grant (6-17), which was ranked 38th in the OSAA power rankings.

With a win, Oregon City would advance to a Friday home playoff game with the winner of a first-round playoff game between 15th-ranked Crater (16-8) and 18th-ranked Forest Grove (15-10). And the winner of that game will advance to the 2014 eight-team Class 6A State Championship Tournament, scheduled for the Moda Center [formerly the Rose Garden] March 12-15.