Union returns to state with a new look

By Paul Harder, The Observer March 05, 2014 12:04 pm

Union's Rebecca Sanders goes up for a shot against Oakland. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Union's Rebecca Sanders goes up for a shot against Oakland. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
 

UNION — A new look. A new coach. But the goal is the same — a Class 2A championship.

That’s what the Union girls basketball team will be chasing at the Pendleton Convention Center starting today against Western Mennonite at 6:30 p.m.

The Bobcats finished second to Regis last year, falling in the title game 60-48.

Union lost three seniors from the team that took a shot at the title last season — posts Kaci Langford and Amber Fiorito along with wing Dani Sturm.

Bobcats head coach Rhondie Johansen, in her first season, didn’t have a bare cupboard to work with — just a few pieces that needed a little seasoning.

Sarah Good, Elly Wells, Carsyn Roberts and Delanie Kohr have all made huge strides forward during the season.

“The progress those girls have made is inmeasureable,” Johansen said. “I stepped into a great program 

Of course having the Blue Mountain Conference three-time Player of the Year back — Keesha Sarman — doesn’t help either. The junior is also the reigning Class 2A Player of the Year.

During the title run last year Sarman scored 72 points in three games in Pendleton, and if not for foul trouble would have broken the tournament scoring record.

“Johansen quote”

Union heads to the tournament ranked No. 5, and with a lot of momentum. The Bobcats cleared the mental hurdle against No. 3 Pilot Rock at the perfect time after losing the first three games against the Rockets this season. The Bobcats picked up a win against the Pilot Rock in the conference postseason tournament, securing the No. 1 seed. That turned into a home win against Oakland in the play-in round.

There will be plenty of roadblocks en route to a title.

No. 2 Western Mennonite will pose its own issues in the opening game. The Pioneers posses a strong inside-out presence. Sophomore Emma Gibb was on the all-state first team last year as a freshman. The 6-foot-2 post will be at the forefront of the Bobcats’ minds.

“Johansen quote”

Western Mennotie also has all-state second team selection Jenna Christenson returning this season. Union’s ability to stay in the winner’s bracket will determine how well it defends Gibb and Christenson.

Regis returns to Pendleton looking for its fifth straight state title, and fourth consecutive Class 2A title. The Rams dropped down from Class 3A in 2010. Regis has two losses on the season. A non-league loss to Class 4A Sutherlin 48-38, and a 40-36 loss to Western Mennonite — Union’s first round opponent.