By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.–Stayton’s Garrett Callsen had himself a State Tournament to remember as a junior this past year. Averaging 15.7 points a game and 9.7 rebounds a game as well, knowing that Jacob Axmaker and Gabe Wigginton were going to be well accounted for.
It was a good learning experience too for him, as Callsen looks to pick-up where he left off just a few months ago.
“It felt really good because I got to do it this year, so I had to step up last year because the other teams were really clamping down on Gabe and Jacob, so I really had to step it up at State last year and that’s what I’m going to do this year,” Callsen said. “It was really good because I’m going to have to do it this year.”
The Oregon West Conference has progressively gotten tougher the past few years, and could be in the argument to be one of the toughest in the State let-lone 4A. The Eagles finished sixth last year, Philomath was fourth, Cascade returning as the Champions. Now throw in North Marion, a playoff team out of the Tri-Valley Conference as they return to the OWC this season, and we’re talking about the playoff atmosphere almost every night in league play.
Something that’ll help Stayton, led by returners in Callsen and Gavin Berning. They add Jace Aguilar and Julius Pokorny, who had playoff experience last season with 3A Jefferson and 1A Crosshill Christian. The Lions reached the 2A playoffs before moving up to 3A and the Eagles of Turner finished third in 1A. Now it’s just a matter of piecing it all together as they finished up their first week and their first game of the season coming up on December 2 at Elmira.
“Having competitions like Philomath and Cascade always makes it tough every year. Last year we played them six times and we lost every time, but that got us ready. Me, Garrett learned how to play against the best in the State,” Berning said. “This first week of practice has been getting us that chemistry we need to build for the season….Last year, we went to State and we were very excited and that really motivates us because we now know what it takes to get there and now we just got to win.
“Just playing more as a team. We got good guys individually, but if we play as a team and move the ball, make that extra pass, that’ll make us go from a good team to a State Championship team.”
Stayton’s first home game will be on December 9 when they host St. Helens and have tournaments at Cottage Grove and at Stayton to close out December and going into OWC-play in January.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald