Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
Postgame boxscores and summaries can make it all sound so easy. Seventeen points here, 11 rebounds there. Maybe 24 this night for a team's leading scorer or 15 rebounds another night.
Those are just numbers and can often be glossed over in newsprint, allowed a hint of consideration before wiped clear as you move on to the next item.
It happens, it's natural ... but that's also where someone like McKensey Peters comes to the forefront.
The North Medford senior routinely puts up notable numbers, but anyone around her can vouch that there's nothing routine about how she goes about her business. Those numbers, however they may fall, are forged through years of sweat and dedication to her sport.
Some may only turn it on when the season comes around and have a workout regimen that revolves more around cereal and a comfy couch, but that's not Peters. The 5-foot-11 standout didn't evolve into one of North Medford's all-time leading scorers by accident.
"It definitely does not come naturally," she's quick to point out. "You need to put the time and effort into it. I've been playing since third grade YMCA-ball and I don't think I've had a full summer off since fifth grade. I'm always at tournaments or practice year-round."
"I don't really focus on anything outside of school or basketball," adds Peters, who recently committed to play next season at Oregon Tech. "I'm not saying I have no life, but look where it's gotten me today. All I can say is that anyone who puts the work and time and effort into it can make it here."
Peters cracked into the starting rotation for the Black Tornado as a freshman and has been a mainstay ever since, leading her team in scoring for the third year in a row at 16.7 points per game to go with 11 rebounds. She ranks second in the Southern Oregon Hybrid in scoring average and, although program records aren't readily available, stands to wrap up her tour with the Tornado (10-5, 1-4 SOH) as one of its top career scorers.
"She's got to be in the top 5, for sure," says North Medford head coach Tim Karrick.
Peters scored a career-high 34 points one year ago against Grants Pass (7-8, 4-2), which comes to town Friday for a key SOH clash, but the most impressive note is how much more consistent her play has become over the years. Her game-by-game totals haven't fluctuated much throughout the year, even while her all-around responsibilities have increased.
"The thing I'm most proud of is she's become more of a complete player," says Karrick. "She's always been offensively really talented, but she's averaging double-digit rebounds, really understanding help-side on defense and taken four or five charges and getting three or four steals every night just being in the right spot on defense. Her overall game has gotten so much better."
You can tell the pride in Peters when such words are spoken.
"Averaging a double-double is by far the biggest goal I could possibly accomplish for myself," she insists. "But I wouldn't be here without all the teammates and coaches and friends and family that have pushed me to get there."
Peters began her prep career at North as a three-sport contributor in volleyball, basketball and track and field, then traded out volleyball for soccer before ultimately focusing her sole attentions on the hardcourt her junior year. She played on two travel teams beyond the school season last year, and also was part of a spring basketball league.
"It's been tough but I'm really glad I stuck with basketball," says Peters. "I would be sticking with other sports if I had the time but with how much practice and time I put into basketball — it's really hard to even go out on a Saturday night — I couldn't do that with another sport."
Part of that is because Peters takes ownership of her own development. Any day without getting better is another day lost on her journey to become the best basketball player she can be.
"I really put time into the offseason because there's so much you need to work on that you're not going to be able to work on it just in practice," says Peters, who turns 18 on April 20. "If you want to be a really great athlete you need to know when you need to put time into practicing. I think the coaches would appreciate it a lot because you only have like four weeks until your first game by the time the season rolls around and then you're practicing as a team, learning plays and our defense and everything."
"If I lose a game," she adds, "I pick every single thing I did wrong that game and make sure I push myself at practice the next day just to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Such words are music to the ears of any coach, and provide a good foundation for why she's such a coachable commodity.
"She's the type of kid where you just tell her one time and it's clicked," says North Medford assistant coach Aaron Rayburn. "You don't always have to say it over and over, and that's not always the case coaching-wise."
"She's the type of player that you don't have to draw up a lot for her, too," he adds. "She's still going to get points because she's always going to be around the basket."
Rayburn says he's never been around a player so adept at going and getting the basketball, whether it's crashing in from beyond the arc or following her own shot.
"She just has a natural gift and talent for going and getting it," he says. "Part of that's desire, she's really determined, and she's also pretty strong."
What she also is, much to Peters' delight, is a work in progress. She has spent the last year working to develop more of a perimeter game and is reaping some rewards for those extra efforts already this season.
"In the Roseburg game (Jan. 15) I took shots that I would never normally take and I had six shots that went right in and I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I can shoot these.' So I'm really glad that's coming along and I'll be able to go inside-out more from now on."
Away from the court, Peters is also a blue ribbon-winning 4H member who raised and sold two pigs last year. A professed animal lover, the outdoorsman in Peters still creeps up every now and then when she goes hunting for fowl with her father Brad.
And, as one can imagine, she's a crack shot there, too.
"My dad's thought he hit the bird but it was actually me a couple times," Peters says as if spilling a family secret.
"I think he's a little bit jealous there," she adds with a laugh. "He tries to say that he taught me everything I know, but I don't know about that."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry