TIGER GIRL'S FOCUS: STATE TITLE
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
The La Grande Tiger girls are focusing on a state basketball championship this season.
La Grande coach Isaac Williams admits that is every team's goal. A state title, however, was within reach for the Tigers last season.
La Grande (22-6 overall, 11-3 GOL) won the league title last year and won a share of the title two years ago. They advanced to the state final last season after coming from behind to win their first three games.
In the final, the Tigers had a seven-point halftime advantage over Wilsonville, but the opponents rallied by going on a run in the third quarter to capture its second-straight state trophy.
Williams said the Tigers want to do better than last year's finish, and one of the strengths of this year's team is experience, even with the loss of graduated GOL second-teamers Karli Nebeker and Shalece Hibbert.
Three starters return for their final season GOL first-team all-star wing player Christie Weaver, GOL first-team all-star point guard Lindsey Carmichael and wing player Amanda Schuft.
Weaver was named first team all-tournament for her play at state, while Carmichael was on the all-tournament second team.
Junior wing player Amber Rasmussen, junior post player Kayla Crouch and sophomore wing player Jill Jensen are back.
Williams said this is his first year having a post player because traditionally the Tigers have not had someone to play that position.
"This is the biggest team we've had in the last three years," he said.
Weaver and Rasmussen are the Tigers' tallest players at 5-11, while Crouch stands 5-10.
Williams said Crouch was outstanding at the state tournament last season. She led the team in rebounding against Philomath (5), Marist (8) and Wilsonville (7).
Crouch scored 10 points against Wilsonville.
"I think we'll be a better rebounding team because Kayla will play more minutes," Williams said. "We'll be a better rebounding team."
He said the team would have to defend the post by putting pressure on the other team's guards.
New faces will be sophomore wing players Nikki Nielson and Jenna Jensen. Both played on the junior varsity squad last season.
"It's a different team, so it will take us awhile, I think, for everyone to understand their roles and for the younger kids to be playing more minutes and things like that," Williams said.
The coach has not decided who will start in the other two spots but whoever proves themselves in practices will play.
"Everyone of those kids will play," he said.
The team is not as deep as in the past, but that is not a concern for Williams.
"We have a lot of players that are versatile," he said.
The Tigers begin preseason action hosting Hermiston Dec. 3.