Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
Records are made to be broken, but some records are easier to break than others.
It's one thing if you're chasing a school record for, say, 3-pointers. In that case, you can always go the route of South Medford's Kylie Towry and spend countless hours in a gymnasium putting up hundreds of shots to hone your touch.
But when it comes to areas in basketball like rebounding or shot-blocking, there's not much extra work you can do to make it happen. Either you have it or you don't.
Phoenix junior Baylee Toney and Rogue River senior Emily Roldan each turned their natural prowess into record-setting efforts on the basketball court recently, with Toney excelling as a rebounder and Roldan as a shot-blocker.
"It's kind of a game-type situation you can't really set up," Rogue River head coach Bryan DeBolt said of developing as a shot-blocker. "It happens naturally in practice sometimes but you can't really work on shot-blocking. You can talk about technique and things like that but at some point it's something you just have to have a knack for doing."
Roldan, a 5-foot-11 post, set three school records for blocked shots this season. She had 15 blocks in a Dec. 11 game against Etna (Calif.) to break the single-game record of nine set by Shawna Hamre against Phoenix in 2007. Roldan's 106 blocks this year also established a single-season record, besting Hamre's 71 blocks in the 2007-08 campaign. With no prior record existing for blocks in a career, Roldan's 137 for this season also goes down as the top mark.
"It's a pretty awesome feeling," Roldan said Monday of her three school records. "This year I was able to step up a little more and actually tried to get blocked shots to help us out."
Roldan's breakout campaign was due in large part to her ability to avoid committing fouls when applying her defensive pressure. She had 10 blocks as a sophomore and 11 as a junior but finally seemed to figure things out as a senior.
"Last year I didn't exactly realize that most of the times I would foul," said Roldan, 17. "This year I increased my vertical in my fitness class and I was able to get blocked shots without getting fouls, and I found out I was good at it."
DeBolt said he and Roldan spent time in the offseason talking about the proper technique, working to avoid big arm swings and trying to keep her arms straight when challenging shots.
"She's got really quick, long arms and over the years she's gotten really good at being able to time other kids' shots," said DeBolt, in his first year as head coach after four years as an assistant. "The stars really aligned for her this year."
Roldan said it's always been in her nature to want to challenge shots on defense. As many times as she's been told to keep her feet on the ground, she said it's just second nature for her to want to jump up and create the biggest obstacle possible.
"It's just instinct now," she said. "I just learned how to work around the fouling."
With her 20-inch vertical and considerable wingspan, Roldan was able to block shots to the rate of six per game this season for the Chieftains to go with about 14 points. She had at least three blocks in every game but did have to take about two weeks off with a sprained knee.
While it wasn't her goal to become a record-setting shot-blocker when the season started, Roldan said she was happy to bring something positive to what ended up being a rough season for Rogue River. With only two seniors, the Chieftains failed to win a game this year, going 0-20 overall after pretty good success in previous years.
"Ever since my freshman year when we went to the playoffs I've been on a winning team so it was weird to come out this year and have such a young team to work with," said Roldan. "I didn't know how to do it at first and got frustrated but then I realized I was like that a few years ago, too, and I just used what I knew to help them try to better themselves for future years."
"It was definitely very hard for me to not win a game all season," she added, "but once I found out I broke three school records I thought, 'All right, at least something good came out of this season and I was able to help the other girls,' and so that was good enough for me."
Wins have been more plentiful for Toney at Phoenix, where the Pirates are 16-7 entering tonight's Skyline Conference playoff game at Mazama (21-2). The heart and desire to accomplish something for her team, however, has been equal to that of Roldan's.
Toney set a single-game school record last week when she pulled down 23 rebounds in a 53-28 win over Klamath Union during the league playoffs. Of note is that Toney stands only 5-71/2 but simply has a knack for corralling the basketball.
"She's a good jumper but she doesn't have out-of-the-gym hops," said Phoenix head coach Randy Kirkland. "She anticipates well and she just has this huge determination that she's going to try and get every rebound that's out there."
Unlike Roldan, Toney made it her goal long ago to one day hold the school records for rebounding.
"As a freshman she looked up at the record board and said by the time she was done she was going to hold all those rebounding records," said Kirkland, "and she's well on her way."
Besides the single-game record, the junior is closing in on the single-season and career records for rebounding. Toney is at 227 for the season and trails Jaclyn Unruh (252) by 25 with at least two games still on the schedule. Her career total of 552 — she grabbed 220 last year — is only 73 shy of Kat Cox's career record of 625.
"If she stays healthy, she's really gonna blow it out of the water," Kirkland said of the all-time record.
Toney enters today's game averaging a double-double at 10.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, but it's the final figure that means the most to her.
"Rebounding is just the one thing that I'm really confident at doing," she said. "When someone shoots it I just want to get the board because that's like my one contribution to the team and how I can help them. When the shot goes up I see where it's going and I want to be the one that goes and gets it. That's my favorite thing to do in basketball."
A bit undersized for her role on the team, Toney overcomes the odds with her dedication to box out opponents and undeniable desire to be first to the ball.
"There will be a group of five people near the ball and she will be the one that comes out with it," said Kirkland. "It's pretty remarkable and, at times, it's almost comical. She just works really hard and has a natural ability to go and get those loose balls that it seems like everyone's going for."
During her big moment last Friday, Toney knew she was having a big rebounding night but wasn't quite aware she had reached a new high when it happened. The previous single-game record was 22, shared by Tiffany Ross and Wendy Hansen. Toney also had 12 points and five steals in the win.
"I didn't even realize I did it until I saw all my teammates start cheering," said Toney, 17. "All the people around were like, 'Why are they all cheering? The game's not even over.' I didn't know what to do and I was like, 'Kirkland, just take me out.' It was awesome."
Prior to Friday, Toney said her high point to the season was when she pulled down 19 in a game, which was one more than her mother Nikki had in her single-game best as a high schooler.
Toney also had 20 rebounds during another game this season and said her advice to up-and-coming rebounders is to simply go for it and not be afraid of any matchup, regardless of how much size difference there may be.
"You've got to be aggressive," she said. "I've played a lot of games with four fouls but sometimes you've just got to go for it. I've also realized that the coaches are right, you're going to get the rebound no matter what if you box them out."
As for partially achieving her goal, Toney said her record-setting status hasn't exactly sunk in.
"I think it'll really hit me when I see my name up there on the record board," she said. "Hopefully my other teammates can break some records, too, so we have more people recognized from this year."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry