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Denson, Pool help Oregon team win tourney

They were thorns in one another's side just last month. Together, a band of Oregon girls basketball players proved unbeatable this past weekend.

Instead of battling Westview's towering twins Kara and Kim Braxton, Crater sophomores Amy Denson and Sarah Pool were melding their talents. Instead of looking for a way to stop Springfield's Tish Rath and Chelsea Wagner, Ashland junior Jackie Woods blended her game with theirs.

Ten Oregonians and point guard Alexis Kendrick from Inglewood, Calif., won a three-day national tournament in North Carolina.

The West Coast All-Stars, as they were known, defeated the Indiana Force, 87-66, in Sunday's championship game.

The Adidas-sponsored team, coached by former University of Oregon assistant Stephanie Norman, won twice Saturday, beating a Minnesota team, 64-49, and then Bay Hoops of Oakland, 73-68, in the semifinals. A New York team failed to show for a Saturday afternoon game.

On Friday, West Coast routed a Columbus, Ohio, entry, 72-32.

The squad gathered in Portland Thursday, flew to Raleigh, N.C., via Chicago and then played together for the first time in a scrimmage against a Florida team.

That's in contrast to the AAU teams that play year-around together.

A lot of teams we went up against were running set plays, says Woods. We hadn't practiced, we just went out there and won the tournament.

Kara Braxton, a 6-foot-5 junior, was the reason Crater finished second to Westview in last month's state basketball tournament.

Having Kara on our team was nice, says Pool. She's an awesome player, by far the best in the nation. I don't think she ever worked as hard in Oregon as she did here. She's faster than any guard out there. There was always an open outlet.

While Braxton scored 18 points in the final and 19 in the semifinal, Denson was the No. 2 scorer with 17 points against Indiana and 12 against the East Bay squad.

I don't think anybody's jaws dropped (by the way the team played), Denson says. I think we took it as a challenge to play our best while we were here. It wasn't hard to focus because we all had the same goal.

Those goals had a lot to do with the audience.

Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham or the Dean Smith Center at Chapel Hill is an experience to which basketball players aspire.

But unlike those games you see on TV, there weren't thousands of rabid fans. Just a few hundred coaches sifting through scores of players that might benefit their programs.

It's an audition in some ways, Pool says. They're there to recruit and find the best players they can. You've got to play like your future depends on it and show what you've got.

Pool took the opportunity to play the off guard spot as well as her usual point guard role. At 6-2, Denson played a variety of spots, including center.

When Kara was out, me and Jackie played the five, Denson says.

It was awesome playing with Jackie -- it gave us a chance to be friends rather than opponents.

Woods enjoyed the company and the chance to play something other than the post.

Playing on the same team with Sarah and Amy, you realize how good they are, said the Southern Oregon Conference player of the year. I was too stubborn during the season to realize how good they are.

While Denson and Pool have traveled extensively with AAU teams in the past, the trip was a real adventure for Woods.

The farthest I had ever been away was Nevada, Woods says. The farthest team I had ever played against was from Oklahoma. It was nice to see those big campuses and what big colleges are all about.

All three of the Southern Oregon players would like to get the team together again for a summer encore.

We were kind of the surprise of the tournament, Pool says. No one expected anything out of us.

A LONG JUMP-- It's been 23 years since former Grants Pass star Scott Stauch long jumped into the Oregon record book with a 24-foot, 4-inch effort.

The mark was equalled once, by South Eugene's Kanon Vanderhoff in 1990.

Last Saturday, Tigard senior Ryan Brown -- who had a career best of 22-11 -- popped off four 24-foot jumps, including a 24-9 leap in the Mike Kostrba Sandy Invitational.

Brown said he was merely going for a school-record 23 feet at the start of the day. When he hit 23-10 early in the competition, he was just getting warmed up. Brown followed with 24-1, 24-9, 24-4 and 24-2.

In the same meet, Newberg senior Sarah Malone moved into the No. 2 spot on the all-time state javelin list with a throw of 170-11. Lynda Hughes of Newberg set the record in 1980 at 178-4.

Sandy freshman Tommy Skipper cleared 15-6 in the pole vault. He had already become the state's best freshman vaulter ever when he topped 15 feet to surpass the 1967 standard of 14-5 by Cottage Grove's Ray Shoptaw.

HIGH SCHOOL HALL OF FAME-- The late Steve Prefontaine was among the 14 individuals selected for induction in the 2000 class of the National High School Sports Hall of Fame last week.

The Marshfield High athlete held every American track record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters at the time of his death in 1975.

He broke four minutes in the mile nine times, won two state cross country championships (1967-68), won the mile (1969) and 2-mile (1968-1969) titles and set national prep records in the 2-mile and 3,000 meters.

He went on to win the 1970, 1971 and 1973 NCAA cross country championships and was fourth in the 5,000 at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

(Greg Stiles is a Mail Tribune sports writer. He can be reached at 776-4483 or at )