Lady Celts look to improve of 3rd place finish

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Senior Ashlee Koenig dodges a block in practice. Right: Freshman Sydney Hunter puts up a shot, Hunter is one of two freshmen joining the Lady Celt varsity team this season. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Senior Ashlee Koenig dodges a block in practice. Right: Freshman Sydney Hunter puts up a shot, Hunter is one of two freshmen joining the Lady Celt varsity team this season. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

BY EVAN RUMMERFIELD
For the Keizertimes

A third place finish last season has the McNary High School girls varsity basketball team thinking there may be even bigger accomplishments in the immediate future.

The foundation of a successful team is the atmosphere on the court, said Paul Pickerell, McNary’s head coach beginning his second year with the program.

Pickerell loves “promoting a hardworking environment” and making “better individuals and a team.”

The 2013-14 varsity roster is comprised of two seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.

“This team is on the verge of being a good team. They work well together,” he said.

Ashlee Koenig, one of the two seniors, said attitude on the court has been positive and that inspires faith in her teammates.

“(My role) is to be a positive role model and be a leader by example, and I’m thrilled to see what the underclassmen can do,” Koenig said.

Junior Jasmine Ernest has high expectations for the solid team, and she is looking forward to the “potential our team has to do great things this year.”

Pickerell and Michael Miller, an assistant coach, shared the strengths and shortcomings of the team.

“Our strengths include speed and togetherness, as well as the ability to put pressure on the ball and spread the floor.

The weakness that we have is that we do not have a big post. No bang,” Miller said. “(The younger players) of the team will need to get adjusted.”

Even though the team is a young bunch, a fresh group can easily be turned into an advantage.

“We are very quick and fast this year. We have an offensive system that complements high speed,” he said. “(We just have) a lot of freshmen in the basketball program.”

While the team is young, the incoming players are drawing on their experience in youth leagues.

“The energetic group of young players is willing to try new things and play hard,” Miller said.

While goals differ, slightly, between players (win the Central Valley Conference title) and coaches (improve on last year and/or make the final eight), each felt that the team had more within its grasp than last season.

Pickerell is ready for a successful season no matter what.

The team travels to Roseburg High School for a tournament Friday, Dec. 6, and hosts Dallas High School in its home opener Tuesday, Dec. 10.

The games against South Salem are what Koenig is anticipating most. For now, the team needs to focus on one thing at a time.

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