By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– As a freshman, Lucas Zook played an important part in helping the Western Christian Boys Basketball, contributing a point and a rebound in the second overtime period of his nine points,four rebound and two steal performance in the win. A win, still crazy to think about nearly a year later, that came down to a missed jumper from possibly turning the tide between them and Salem Academy in the 54-53 win this past March.
“It still kind of shocks me, then in the moment I wasn’t thinking about it. I was just playing. It’s definitely surreal,” Zook said. “With us coming off a State Championship and having that experience with those close games. Those high-pressure moments this season so we know that we can handle those because we had those experiences before.
“It’ll be important for us (this year) to continue to build on our team chemistry since most of us have played together since sixth/seventh-grade. But to just play with high-intensity and give everything we have. We don’t have the size that most teams have, so we’re just going to have to play with our hearts out.”
Zook and Gavin Hall, who played 22, 22 and 17 minutes in the three Pendleton games this past season, return this season as the lone returners of a team with one junior and no seniors. Diggs Sladek and Kaden Robinson each are about six-foot-two as the tallest members of the Pioneers this Winter. Mix in the coaching that they have, along with Zook and Hall taking the lessons learned from the seniors before them into this season as sophomores, Western Christian will look to be a tough out as they are traditionally.
“It definitely helped us a lot because they showed us the ropes and mentored us. Hopefully we can take some of that stuff that they taught us being leaders and lead everyone else,” Hall said of learning from the seniors last year. “It’s going to be huge…if we can set the tone early, I think it’ll help us a lot for the coming years. (Last year) helped me a lot confidence wise now because I feel like I have to step up as a leader and helping everyone get better, so I think it helped out a lot.”
Western Christian will head to the Junction City Jamboree Wednesday before kicking off the season December 6 at East Linn Christian. The Pioneers first home game will be on December 12 against North Douglas.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald