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Cascade builds on success

DAVID DAUGHERTY

Memories of Pendleton are still fresh in the minds of the Cascade Christian High girls basketball team.

Last year, the Challengers made their first-ever appearance at the Class 2A state tournament in Pendleton and liked the taste so much they've developed a perpetual hunger.

It's no longer just participating -- we have big dreams, says Cascade Christian coach Loren King, whose team enters Friday's league opener at St. Mary's with a 5-5 record. If you work hard, you get there and see how it goes. Every other team is dreaming the same dream we are, but the memory is still fresh.

But with the Big Fir League season-opener looming Friday, it's obvious a return trip to Eastern Oregon won't be easy.

Gone are seven of the 10 players from last year's Cascade Christian team that went 19-11 overall, tied for second in the Big Fir League and won the District 5 tournament to earn a state berth.

Junior guard Crystal Tait, a second-team BFL all-star selection a year ago and 6-foot-1 junior post Natalie Peck are the lone returning starters from last year and will be counted on heavily.

They're very solid kids and genuine basketball players, says King. They're important, but I like a balanced team. The key will be developing the other kids.

Among those who will be counted on to step up are sophomore Christine McCandless, a 5-10 wing who started a few games at the end of last season; senior wing Mandy Danelson, senior wing Lily Reishman, junior wing Erin Meyer and sophomore guard Katie Longan.

I'd give us a strong C-plus right now, says King. We just need to figure out how to work together. There are a lot of new faces, and we have to put the pieces together.

The youthful Challengers will have to put the pieces together in a hurry to contend for the Big Fir title in a league that appears to be much improved from a year ago.

There's no substitute for experience, says King. If we can hang around I think we'll be a scary team at the end of the season.

St. Mary's, meanwhile, lost its coach and best player from a team that last year earned a share of the Big Fir League title.

New coach Jana Hirsch has taken over for Patti Davidson and guided the improving Crusaders to a 3-7 non-league start.

Two-time Big Fir League player of the year Dolinda Meeker transferred to North Medford and the absence of some other would-be returnees left senior Christal Rainey as the Crusaders' lone returning starter.

The 5-8 Rainey was a second-team all-league pick last year and has shouldered the load for St. Mary's, which features features nine freshmen.

Christal is an all-around great player, says Hirsch, who played college ball in Canada for three years.

She brings a lot of leadership and has a great shot.

Wing Lani Brophy and post players Melanie Crume and Emily Cook are three of the freshmen who will see lots of action.

Sophomore Shasta DeArmond will also play a big role in the Crusaders' attack.

Glendale should once again be the team everyone's chasing for the BFL crown.

Last year, coach Jim Docherty's club tied for the BFL crown with a 13-3 conference mark.

The Pirates return 11 of 12 girls from that team, including 6-0 post Sarah Maurer.

First-team all-stars from last year, Colleen Fleming and Liz and Rebekah Bresnan, will make Glendale a force.

Marque Peavyhouse is another player to watch for the Pirates.

Yoncalla, after a tie for second in league last year, is looking to make its upward move.

Leading the charge will be three returning senior starters -- Shauna Bendele, Lena Williams and Sarah Means.

North Douglas could be much improved after posting a disappointing 4-12 league mark last season.

New coach Bill Spelgotti is one of three new coaches in the league and will rely on the services of 6-2 post Adie Perini and Holly Black.

Coach Bob Lemerande guided Pacific to a respectable 9-7 league mark last season and will look to the services of 6-2 post Katrina Meeks and guard Robin Childs to help his team make an assault on one of the playoff slots.

First-year Riddle coach Darrin Schuyler looks to right an Irish ship that went 2-14 last year.

The coach relies heavily on the sister duo of Kristie and Lisa Martin.