By Jeremy McDonald
MILL CITY, Ore.– The Santiam Girls Basketball team wrapped up their first week of practice Saturday morning in the old gym at Santiam High School.
The Wolverines only graduated two seniors from their 2-5 Spring season as they return a strong core that features the Lindemann sisters of Grace and Ellie, Kristen Crofoot, Reis Peterson, Emma Longfellow and a healthy Maddie Forste and Cassidy Olson.
“I think we all realize that we need to come together. You never know what’s going to happen and we just need to come together as a team and work together,” Olson said.
Olson and Forste got injured in their season opening, 47-33, defeat to Salem Academy on May 27. Olson broke her femur in the opening game as the senior returns.
“That gives a lot right there,” Head Coach David Plotts said of Olson’s and Forste’s return. “Cassidy has more of a physical body, she can bang a little bit and give a little bit there. But she can also shoot a three.
“Maddie is a really good shooter and we’re working on her game. She can drive and she can shoot and she can do a lot of different things there.”
Plotts has high expectations for Forste to play a bunch of positions on the floor this season. The Wolverines won’t have a lot of height this season, so they’ll have some versatility and physical play to make up for it.
Grace Lindemann, their returning point guard, and Crofoot will bring quickness and speed to the court. Lindemann has gained some more confidence at the position and in her shooting while Crofoot will be one of the defensive vocal points. Longfellow will be spending some time down in the post this season for Santiam.
The Leon Sisters of Janessa and Anahi return too and will add depth and athleticism to the court for the squad this year as well.
The Wolverines welcomed Chloe Lowery from Rainier. Lowery’s knocking off the rust of not playing in a few years while freshman Brooke Massey has showed off some promising upside during practice with her aggressive play.
“She’s really aggressive. I didn’t know anything about her and she’s come out here, she’s battling with the seniors. She actually knocked a couple of them down today and was apologizing, don’t apologies. They got to be able to take it too,” Plotts said of Massey.
“She’ll probably be in foul trouble a lot of the time because she’s pretty aggressive, but I rather take that than tell her to get going.”
Santiam will have a gauntlet to open the season. After opening the season at Jefferson December 1, they’ll jump into Tri-River Conference play with Salem Academy (December 9), Gervais (December 14 at Gervais) and Western Christian (December 17).
The Cougars and Crusaders went one-two in the Cumulative Week playoffs with Gervais winning the Title. The Pioneers have vastly improved and will be contending for the third-spot in league with Santiam, Colton and Culver behind them.
“It’ll be really big for us, especially for us seniors. We’ve poured our hearts into this sport since we were very little. We’re bringing the freshman, bringing them up to make sure that they’re ready for the fight,” Olson said. “We got to push them. Even if they’re at their limits, just keep pushing them and making sure that they’re getting better every single day.”
“They’re all a little bit more confident, a little bit more aggressive,” adds Plotts. “We got the core group, but we got a bunch of new kids too and we just got to piece those together.”
And, Plotts points out, they’ll try to do the next few practices leading into their season opener with the Lions and building from there as they start a more normal basketball season.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald