By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– Last season was the first time since 2007 that the Stayton Girls Basketball team had brought home some serious hardware for their trophy case.
Though they finished sixth in a highly contested fourth-sixth place game against Valley Catholic 37-35, the Lady Eagles built off of 2017’s success by getting to the Elite 8 and found themselves a basket or two from the State Semi-Finals and fourth-place to close out the season.
But now entering the 2018 season, and wrapping up Picture Day at practice Wednesday, Stayton will be looking to reach back to the Final Site once more for their seven Seniors on this year’s squad.
The only difference is that they’ll try to do it without two of their starters from last season with Second Team-All State Alexa Bender and Lexi Smart graduating this past June sticking the Eagles with more athleticism and speed than they do with height as they did last season.
“We’ll miss them as people first of all, but we’ll definitely miss Alexa. Her length helped us defensively, that’ll be a challenge to replace that,” said Head Coach Darren Shryock on Bender and Smart. “Biz (Alyssa Smart) has done really well stepping in to that role. We’re going to be asking a lot of the same things out of her, she’s not quite as long. Alexa was a gifted athlete at the 4A level.”
Alyssa Smart and Marri Martinez are both going to be the two filling in for the graduated Lexi Smart and Bender. Both Martinez and Smart saw Varsity minutes last season as juniors, but they are the only height that the Eagles will have this season with both measuring near six-feet tall with Genevieve Frith the next tallest at about five-seven.
So making sure they stay out of foul trouble will be crucial to go with the athletic shooters that they have with the Nyquist sisters, the Plata twins, Holly McGill and Tylee Bundy to name a few who are closer to about five-four in height that could hurt them if they have to go with a small lineup for any significant amount of time.
“It’s going to be critical, but we can do it,” laughs Martinez on finding a way to staying on the court this season. “We can’t have any little fouls. I think we’re all pretty fast, we have small girls so I feel like running the floor won’t be a problem for us this year.”
“We did lose a lot of height but we did gain a lot of quickness I think, so we’re going to use that quickness to our advantage. And with the loss of height, (Shryock) is telling us to be more aggressive cause we’re going to need it because with those big girls it’s going to be a little harder,” adds Bundy.
They’ll certainly will be facing some teams with height this season with Central and former Oregon West Conference-foe North Marion within the first four games as the season kicks off Wednesday versus Seaside at home that will require them to be aggressive as they hope to return to the Elite 8 and hopefully continue this positive trek upwards come season’s end.