Waiting game

Written by Paul Harder, The Observer December 04, 2013 10:16 am

La Grande’s Haley White tries to thread a pass during a game last season. The Tigers will try to repeat last year’s run to the Class 4A state championship game.
La Grande’s Haley White tries to thread a pass during a game last season. The Tigers will try to repeat last year’s run to the Class 4A state championship game.

La Grande waits to see what’s in store for the girls basketball team 

Only time will tell what the La Grande girls basketball team has in store this season. Gone is a strong core of players who led the Tigers to the Class 4A state championship game last season, a 53-43 loss to Mazama.

The question becomes where will the scoring come from following the graduation of three all-state players. Brenna Partney, Denise Comfort and Lauren Mills anchored a group that shot 43 percent from the floor during a 22-6 season. 

“We’ll never have that group again,” La Grande head coach Doug Girdner said. “But, we have a lot of young talent. It’s just going to depend on how quickly they mature. It’s a really good group of girls and I have a lot of confidence in them.”

Girdner said it’s going to take some time to see who is going to emerge on the varsity roster. 

“We’ve got a lot of players out and we’re just waiting for the cream to rise to the top,” Girdner said. 

But the time to see who will make the varsity roster was cut even shorter this season. The OSAA pushed back the start date for basketball practices a week, meaning the Tigers will have had five practices before the team opens the season tonight at Pendleton.

“We had the soccer team make it to the state finals and with the season start date pushed back, there hasn’t been much time,” Girdner said. “So, things are going a little slower than I was hoping for.”

Just like any time a strong senior class leaves, the role players from the year before will need to fill in. Girdner doesn’t plan on changing the system that worked for the Tigers last season. The tempo will stay high.

“We still plan to push the ball just as much as last season,” Girdner said. “I don’t think the shooting will be quite like last season. We’ll need to be more in tune with our rebounding.”

The key players returning that saw time last season are Lexus Miller-Moylan and Avery Albrecht, who will be a big part of the offensive success of the Tiger’s. 

“We have some kids that can slice pretty good and get to the basket,” Girdner said. “Then we have a couple of kids that can hit the 3-ball with freshman Lacey Miles. And, Lexus can do a little bit of both those. Those are going to be pretty big scorers from time to time.”

Miles is still recovering from a foot injury during the soccer season, but should be available by the start of the Greater Oregon League schedule at the end of January.

Another key cog to La Grande’s success will be senior Haley White. 

White will be a big part of setting up the offense, and being a defensive stopper.

“She’s a selfless player,” Girdner said. “Haley can see things develop before some of the other girls. She’s just got that instinct.

“She also going to be a big part of our defense. Her quickness is a big asset in that department.”

The biggest part of this season is the unknown. 

The roster of 15 players as yet to be divided by the coaching staff into the varsity and junior varsity. Girdner said it’s going to be a tough decision.

Rachael Alexander has a chance to come out and do some really good things,” Girdner said. “Maddison Wilcox has pretty good hops. If we can get her to be a little more disciplined I think she can surprise a lot of people as well.

“And like I said, there’s a bunch that could be pretty surprising this season. We have some girls that are really skilled in one area, and not in another. It just comes down to how hard they work.” 

La Grande will open the season against the Buckaroos tonight at 6 p.m.