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Spirlin solidifies future for Scappoose girls' basketball

The Indians fell 39-24 in the playoffs at Gladstone, but they've now laid a foundation for years to come


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - The Scappoose girls' basketball team takes a moment to themselves before tipping off against Gladstone in the program's first post-season game since 2007. First-year head coach David Spirlin has promised to return, and has plans to build on this year's foundation.The Scappoose girls' basketball team took a beating on Feb. 28, losing on the road to Gladstone 39-24 and bringing the Indians' season to an abrupt close.

The bigger story, though, was the fact that Scappoose was in the game to begin with. It was the first time since 2007 that the girls' program had seen the post season – or “third season,” as head coach David Spirlin has referred to it since the beginning of the year.

Spirlin has also confirmed that he plans on returning as head coach next season, adding depth to his plan of revamping the program from the high school level into the younger teams, and having a hand and presence far beyond the high school varsity squad.

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - David Spirlin will return to coach the Indians next season, breaking a four-year stretch in which the program had four different head coaches.Scappoose won their final two regular season games, and beat out Astoria on Feb. 25 to qualify for the playoffs, but watched their run stall with a visit to the 10th-ranked Gladiators. The Indians finished 5-5 in the Cowapa League, and 12-13 over all, and though they will loose nine seniors from their 13-player roster, this season was as much about breaking a stereotype as making the playoffs.

The first victory wasn't to be won on the court. It had to be won in the minds of the Indian players, especially the seniors who had seen four different coaches in four years, including their senior season with Spirlin at the helm. They faced a new system on offense and defense and a new voice on the bench, but the prospect of a brand new outlook was enticing enough for the team to band together early on, and trust Spirlin to guide them through the inevitable difficulties of the unfamiliar changes.

The transition always brings hardships even to the best programs, according to Spirlin, but the progress has been impressive.

“At about the middle of the year, you could see us making strides towards what I'm trying to get them to do, and the thing is, I wasn't always popular in practice, but I kept pushing them and pushing them to get to this,” he said, motioning to the throng of Gladstone fans awaiting the home team's return from the locker room. “This is the first time in seven years that the girls' basketball [team] has made it to the playoffs. The underclassmen have a little taste of what it will take for them to get here again, and I hope they're hungry to do that.”

In spite of the senior-heavy roster, the youth has shone at times, especially freshmen guard Alyssa Spang and five-foot-11 freshman Kaylie Kopra, as well as five-foot-11 post Kendal Bailey, the only sophomore on the varsity squad. The seniors might have shouldered the load this year, but the entire program – top to bottom – understands that it's the underclassmen that will need to continue the work in years to come.

“The underclassmen, they made comments in the locker room like 'we want you to be proud of us when you come back and watch us,'” said Spirlin. “You can see the passing of the torch on to the younger ones.”

Now that the program has shown it's ability to find success, Spirlin hopes that will, in turn, bring about more positive results.

“We've laid a good foundation for the future,” he said. “We get our eighth graders in, maybe get some people at school that didn't play basketball that maybe are now thinking about it because of our success [and] start recruiting in the hallways.”

Because of the team's struggles in years past, it's become the norm that Scappoose isn't a girls' basketball town. Winning isn't the standard, and it won't be easy to change that mindset. According to Spirlin, adults and kids alike will look at the current program and evaluate what is happening at the current moment, and forget to see the growth in comparison to years past.

“A lot of parents will see 'hey, there's progress there. I like the things that are going on.' and you start to win people over just by hard work,” said Spirlin. Nothing but good things come from hard work. We're working hard, the girls are working hard, the coaches are working hard, the administrative staff. We're trying to change that. I think we've started. We're not there yet, just like I say, but we've started.”

SUMMARY

Gladstone 39, Scappoose 24

SCAP 7 6 7 4 – 24

GLAD 14 13 5 7 – 39