By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Mady Diaz has been putting in the work this offseason after receiving second-team All-Mountain Valley Conference honors as a junior last season. Playing with the Oregon Triple team, she improved her skills as she looks to help step up as a leader for the West Salem Girls Basketball team this year with the Titans coming off of a 16-9 season and went 13-1 in MVC-play. Their 13-1 record led to them winning the conference before falling in a heartbreaker to Grants Pass in the opening round of the 6A playoffs.
Losing seniors in Baylee Butler and Mya Adams will be hard in terms of leadership traits and what they provided to the team, but for Diaz and company, they’re ready to go for this season to fill that void.
“They were leaders on-and-off the court, they always encouraged us and they really helped us listen to the coaches,” Diaz starts. “I’ve put a lot of work in, traveling for club. so I know I’m ready to lead this team and be a leader for our team, (Basketball) has meant a lot. It’s meant a lot, it’s been a huge part of my life for a long time. It’s sad it’s my senior year, but I’m excited to come out and have one last big season.”
Around Diaz will be Mia Mejia, Conference Player of the Year Lizzy Bennett and Elizabeth Giles. The four have been playing on Varsity together going on their third year as a quartet as they kick off the season November 30 with a hosted Jamboree with Sunset and Barlow.
West Salem Head Coach Katie Singleton spoke highly of the leadership that they have, but touched base on the youth they have coming up that are on Varsity this season. A nice balance of sorts as they are closing in to the season ahead.
“Lizzy and Mady have been on Varsity for a couple of years now. Lizzy, this is her fourth year, she knows what she’s doing and she’s the experience and leader that any team wants. Mady has been on Varsity since she’s been a sophomore, so they have so much experience to bring and to offer. Elizabeth Giles has been on Varsity since she’s been a sophomore,” starts Singleton. “Jaz(min Aliffua) is a junior, she brings a lot of experience as well. We have a lot of youth. We have four freshmen on Varsity this year, we have a sophomore, two juniors and three seniors, so we have that leadership that we need, but we also got a lot of incoming movement that makes us young and fresh which is exciting.
“I think our leaders are doing a good job and the caliber of play that we did last year has set us up this year.”
The Titans first game of the season is against Liberty on the road on December 2 in a preseason that will feature some tough teams once more. They’ll face Beaverton, who won the 6A Title last year, West Linn and Silverton as well. Both teams reached the Elite 8 in 2022. Sheldon was a second round team and Mountainside was also a playoff team as well on top of the Capitol City Classic, which expanded to a eight-team girls bracket at Corban University December 19-21.
The tough preseason this year echoes that of the tough preseason they had last year that they had before hitting their stride in league play.
“We just fought through it and were able to overcome it and get that conference championship and I think this year we’re ready. We’re going to come out strongly as a strong team and we’re ready for it,” Diaz said.
Central Valley Conference play starts January 5 at North Salem High School.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald