Viks Zoning In On The GVC Behind Youth

Coach Andrew Cantu helping out during a Zone Defense Drill During Monday’s Practice (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

By Jeremy McDonald

SALEM, Ore.– Coach Andrew Cantu’s voice can be heard echoing in the gym at North Salem High School during Monday’s afternoon’s practice.

“Trust me girls, your smiling now, but you won’t be smiling when we’re getting our butts kicked by 20.”

With demonstrating their hands needed to be higher, Cantu continues.

“I see our hands here,” with his hands near his waist. “They need to be here!” with his hands now extended at shoulder-level.

On the other end of the court is head coach Brent Turner, with his hands on his waist, he quietly observes his group of Viking Girls Basketball Players.

“Everything’s live, everything’s live….Let’s go,” he said during the drill.

North Salem’s Girls Coach Brent Turner directing his athlete’s on where to go (Picture by Jeremy McDonald)

In his first season in 2014/2015, Turner had ten seniors on a squad that won three games last season as he explained how he is instilling the fundamentals to the team as he turns his focus to a young team entering this season.

“That’s what I’ve been instilling in the girls now: Fundamentals, fundamentals,” said Tuner. “Because without that foundation, the house you build it on it isn’t going to last.  It’s going to be hallow and fall apart.”

Through the off-season, he focused his team on the techniques on lay-ups, looking up while dribbling, just breaking his team down to the bare essentials as he focus’ on bettering the girls in his program.

In an area in where not too many kids go through the traditional-AAU and club sports route, the off-season is the only time schools like a North Salem or a McKay out on the Northeast portion of town can catch up.

“It’s very important,” said Turner on the importance of the off-season.  “As a coach it’s a fine line between you want your girls to play basketball 24/7, but then you got to let them go.

“It’s one of those things that I tell him at least 15 minutes.  Any little thing will give them an advantage to this year.”

Sydnee Rupp running the zone on the perimeter (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)


For Janel Urbina, the practice and the commitment that Turner was preaching to the squad stuck with her as she enters her sophomore campaign.

“Last year I didn’t know anything about basketball,” said Urbina. “As the season went on, we knew more and more.

“We even came in the summer to keep practicing and I think that helped us this season to be better than we were last year.”

Entering the 2016, the plan might feature a two-team system that involves a freshman and a varsity squad that features four seniors on roster, but it’s just an idea at the moment.

“Between the beginning of the year and the end of the year with concussions, other injuries grades and just family issues outside of basketball,” thought Turner out loud.  “We ended up (having to) steal from the JV and steal from the freshman and it really got complicated.

“I feel like if we cut down to the two teams, having that depth and the room I think it’ll do wonders for us.”

North Salem working on the zone defense around the basket (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

As the calls for going to the baseline is called for the next drill, Turner looks to turns his youthful team into a scrappy zone-running squad.

Communication is huge in the zone defense to tell those around you where the ball is at, all in three words to flow to the ball.

“You can’t cheat in zone, South (Salem) can make that pass,” said assistant coach Anna Marchbanks to the team. “You guys have to be able to move like that.”

Sophomore Jenny Garibay and Urbina desrcribed running the zone as fast-paced and intense.

“It’s pretty intense,” described Garibay on the zone. “Because we’ll have to know what spot we’re going to go to and always be quick to defend.”

“Staying in your zone is the main idea of running that defense,” added Urbina “So if you don’t know your zone, then your pretty much you’re lost.”

Anna Marchbanks (left) and Turner (right) looking at the team running and talking about practice (Picture by Jeremy McDonald)

As practice continued on North Salem were slowly getting the groove of the zone defense.

“Ready, Go,” shouts Turner as he passes the ball to Cantu.

“Ball, ball, ball,” yells a player.

“Perfect!” Turner said with a grin.

The Viks open the season December 2 against  South Albany in Albany.  Tip-off is at 7pm.  North’s first home game is December 4 against Thurston.

To see the full schedule of the Vikings Girls Season, follow this link:


Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013).  Got a story idea? Email him at or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81!

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