By Jeremy McDonald
WOODBURN, Ore– For what it was worth, outside of the tough finish against Stayton in the third-fifth place game in the 4A playoffs, Woodburn’s fifth-place finish was a good foundation for the program moving into this season.
The trick will be this year, with them graduating all but two returners from that squad, is to mold the team into a competitive machine similar to last year’s team to return to Forest Grove at season’s end.
“The expectation is there for this team,” said Head Coach Raul Veliz. “Now, hopefully, they learned from that group and take the next step and continue it. Continue to understand that to be able to get there takes a lot of work. That was last year’s group, one thing that they did do is that they put in a lot of work outside of practice. That was good for these guys to see.”
Reese Miller, who averaged two points and two rebounds in their three Elite 8 games in 37 minutes, and Jeovanny Marroquin (one rebound in three minutes at State) return to the squad this year that has a tough preseason slate.
They start the season at North Marion Wednesday, Banks on December 17 and South Albany on January 7 that will test the young Bulldogs in a way to show them what they need to do, and improve, in hopes of reaching the Final Site again.
“We’re going to get tested early. Really early against some of the best teams in the State and that’ll give us an idea of where we need to get to,” said Veliz. “It’s going to help us to see, ‘ok, we’ve got a lot of learning to do’. You got to have the competitive attitude to get after it, but now you really have to dial in the other stuff.”
Making sure their running their sets, running what they want to do efficiently from Game 1 against the Huskies, into the Oregon West Conference slate in January and February and hopefully into the postseason into March.
“It’s going to be good. It’s going to be a good learning curve. It’s going to be right off the gate, steep learning curve,” smiles Veliz. “We got a tough schedule the first couple of weeks. So it’s just got to learn, whether it means wins or losses early is fine. We got to get through those and hopefully it’ll make it us a better team at the end.”
Tip off Wednesday is at 7pm in Aurora.