Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
As much as basketball players enjoy racing up and down the court and putting up shots and points with video-game regularity, there's something else they like to do.
That will be the goal when the seventh-annual Mail Tribune All-Star Basketball Classic takes shape Friday at Kids Unlimited.
"The way I see it," said senior David Sellers of Cascade Christian, "if you step on the court, you're trying to win. You always want to win and do your best. Last year didn't go that well for my team."
Sellers is no stranger to winning, having played this year on a football team that won the Class 3A state championship and a basketball team that recently placed fourth at state.
He hopes for similar success when his Rogue team faces the Siskiyous at 7:30 p.m. at Olsrud Gymnasium inside Kids Unlimited, 821 N. Riverside Ave., in Medford.
The girls All-Star contest kicks off the proceedings at 6 p.m.
Tickets for the doubleheader are $8 for adults and $4 for students. Kids 12 and under get in free.
Both games will be webcast live on www.tablerocksports.net.
Proceeds go to Kids Unlimited and help provide resources so kids of poverty can play basketball.
Starters for the game will be determined by online fan voting. To participate, go to www.mailtribune.com/allstars. Balloting closes at noon Friday. As of Wednesday evening, slightly more than 10,000 ballots had been submitted.
Sellers is the overall boy leader, while North Valley's Lexi Pittman, also playing this year for the Rogues, is the front-runner among girls.
The games bring together top players from all classifications, 6A to 1A, from 16 high schools in the area.
South Medford's Ben Orndoff, a senior wing who is on the Siskiyous, will be playing for the first time.
Orndoff helped the Panthers to sixth place in the state 6A tournament last week and was a first-team all-Southern Oregon Hybrid selection.
"I'm just really excited to play against all these guys and with all these guys one last time," said Orndoff, who has watched the games in recent years and took note of the fast-paced, high-scoring affairs.
One or both of the boys teams has topped 80 points in all but the inaugural event. The girls winner has been in the 70s the past four years.
Last year, the Siskiyou boys triumphed, 81-68. Although players are assigned randomly to the teams, the Siskiyous have a four-game winning streak. The Rogues captured the first two.
The 2013 boys game also was the second-most lopsided in the series, after only the 2012 edition, when the Siskiyous won, 102-82. The first four games were decided by a total of 15 points.
"It's almost like the NBA games," said Orndoff. "Lots of offense, not too much defense. There's a lot of scoring. It's a fun environment and a good atmosphere to be in, whether you're a player or a coach or a fan. I'm definitely excited to be participating. I know a lot of people who are going and looking forward to it."
He'll be on a team that includes North Medford's Julian Gray, Crater's Connor Lane and Grants Pass' Micah Johnson. They played together on the AAU Oregon Stars team. That team was coached by Southern Oregon University assistant Brant Minor, who will be guiding the Siskiyous Friday.
"It'll be a mega reunion," said Orndoff.
Opposite Minor in the coaching seat for the Rogues will be Jguwon Hogges, an assistant coach with the Oregon Tech men's program.
The girls coaches will be women's head coaches Lynn Kennedy of SOU (Siskiyous) and Scott Meredith of Oregon Tech (Rogues).
Sellers had 10 points and 10 rebounds in last year's game, but it wasn't enough to produce a victory for the Rogues. His Cascade Christian teammate, Alex Miller, scored 17 points and was MVP while leading the Siskiyous' victory.
This year, said the 6-foot-7 Sellers, who will play football for Western Oregon, the teams "look pretty even. It should be a good game."
As for a dearth of defense in such showcases, not so fast.
"I love blocking shots," said Sellers, "so I'll try to block some shots if I can. But it's more low key, take it easy and have a good time. Have fun playing with the kids all over the valley. It's a little less intense. You're not playing for a state championship."
South Medford senior Mark Winans was slated to play but suffered a broken hand in the state tournament and is out.
On the girls side, Ashley Bolston of South Medford opted out and was replaced by Panthers teammate Jasmin Falls.
Crater's Courtney Setzer isn't sufficiently healed from an in-season leg injury. St. Mary's Lillian Martin, who played last year, took her spot.
Crater's Becca Heard, another repeater, was switched from the Rogues to the Siskiyous.
In last year's girls game, Eagle Point's Casie Johnson scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter and finished with 15 to propel the winning Siskiyous, 73-61, and earn MVP honors.
The performance impressed College of the Siskiyous coach Tom Powers — who guided the Siskiyous. He recruited Johnson, and she in turn helped the Eagles, of Weed, Calif., to the Golden Valley Conference championship. Johnson was recently named the league's MVP and freshman of the year.
Johnson won't be back but Georgia Williams, a junior from Ashland, will be. She scored nine for the Siskiyous in 2013. This year, she's a member of the Rogues team.
"The All-Star game last year was so much fun," said Williams. "It was just a lot of fun to get out there and play with girls from all over the valley that are just incredible players.
"It's just different because you have girls from every team who have led their teams throughout the whole year, and so you all come together and it's just an amazing game that's a lot of fun to play in and kind of show off. You can showboat a little, but it's a lot of fun."
The Siskiyou girls have won two straight after losing the first four games in the series, and Williams would like to end the skid.
"The teams look good," she said following the lone practice for the teams Wednesday. "It's going to be a fun game."
Two players who had big games for the girls a year ago, South Medford's Julissa Tago and St. Mary's Emily Alvarez, return.
Tago, then a freshman, scored a team-high 18 points for the Siskiyous. On the other side, the 5-3 Alvarez tallied 19.
Leading the voting for starting positions for the Rogue boys as of Wednesday evening were Sellers, Eagle Point's Jorge Quintero, North Medford's Tristen Holmes, Crater's Jacob Hintemeyer and Phoenix's Jason Wyncoop.
The top five for the Siskiyou boys were Eagle Point's Cesar Chavez, Crater's Lane, South Medford's Orndoff, North Medford's Gray and Rogue River's Chris Campbell.
For the Rogue girls, it was Pittman, North Medford's Alexia Hall, Phoenix's Baylee Toney, Ashland's Williams and Cascade Christian's Alaina Thomson.
For the Siskiyou girls, it was Eagle Point's Adrienne Wood, Ashland's Michaela Dunn, Butte Falls' Torri Lilly, St. Mary's Alvarez and South Medford's Julissa Tago.
The event is sponsored by Guru Ink, Los Arcos restaurant and People's Bank.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com