By Jeremy McDonald
TURNER, Ore.– Only three players that returned from the 2016 Cascade High School Cougars Boys Basketball for 2017 that saw significant playing time on the Varsity level last season that saw Cascade drop their first-round playoff game to eventual 4A State Champions in Seaside.
Those three: Damian Ball, Treyden Harris and Joe Icovino.
Since that game, Ball has put on 30 pounds on his six-foot-seven frame and got better around the rim, Harris improved his all-around game and Icovino’s versatility to play post in the inside and outside at guard will be helpful this season for the Cougs.
Though they may have inexperience, they do have size and length on the court and the addition of six-foot-five-ish senior post Jordan Sampson from 6A Greater Valley Conference’s McKay and North Salem High Schools, will be helpful this season playing the always tough Cowpa League in preparation for the Oregon West Conference in January.
“”We got some really good quality opponents all the way through, we got a stretch where we play Seaside and Valley Catholic again, Scappoose. That Cowpa league that has been real tough as of late,” said Ball. “So we’ll definitely have some challenges along the way and it’ll be interesting to see how we step up to that and how we defend. I think with our athleticism and length this year, we’ll be able to do a lot of different defenses. I think we’re going to be tougher on the defensive end period.
“We definitely have some size, we’ll try to exploit mismatches where we can. I think teams are going to have a hard time matching up with our size at every position. At some point there’s got to be a challenge that the team will have in terms of how they’ll defend us. So the trick is how to exploit that opportunity for us and get good opportunities and good quality play.”
Harris talked about how much lessons from last season like team work and ball movement helped them last season that they’ll do again this season for the next week-and-a-half before the first game of the season on December 5.
“Just being a team and just having teamwork. We moved the ball around a lot, we don’t have as many players as we did last year,” said Harris. “Just move the ball around and talking. We do got a really talented team this year.”
Originally, Cascade had a jamboree in Junciton City scheduled that they always went to every year before it was canceled this season, leaving the Cougars to either find another game or rest up for the season.
Having football ending early this year allowed Ball and his team to get a leg up on the season when practice kicked off a few weeks ago, but with the extra few day’s to heal up before they travel to Corbett to take on the Cardinals to start the season has allowed a few of the players to heal up in the transition into basketball season.
“Well, including myself, we got a couple of injuries on our team right now so it’ll be kind of good to get some rest and get healthy and also running through a couple of our plays, getting our strategy better,” said Icovino. “All the little things that we can tighten up so we can do what we want to do this season.”
With a preseason schedule that does feature the defending State Champions in the Seagulls, second-place Valley Catholic, fourth-place Banks and a 5A playoff team in Central to name a few that Cascade will face this year is just apart of the goal of preparing for OWC-play that will more than likely guaranteed to be entertaining this season.
“Yeah it’s going to be tough competition, but I think we have what it takes this year, still be in the 4A division which is going to help us a lot,” said Icovino. “I think this is the year we can really make a run and do really good things for sure.”
And though North Marion are looking to fill the gaps left by Tanner Scanlan and Hunter Martin, Philomath and Stayton re-tooling from last season, Newport that can get on a streak with their guards; a title is always in the back of their minds.
But for Ball, knowing they are hard to come by in general, is focused on how they play quality basketball in the meantime.
“The big concern for our group is can we play quality basketball? With what we have in terms of our talent and our ability, can we get quality play?,” said Ball. “Play quality defense, limit teams possessions, force them into low percentage shots.
“Offensively, let’s make sure we’re taking quality shots. Not forcing the issue, getting high-percentage shots opportunities and see what happens after that.”
Tip-off for the season is December 5 at Corbett High School, tip-off is at 7pm before their home opener on December 8 versus Cottage Grove (5:30pm).
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald