From the start of summer ball, the Dufur Ranger girl’s basketball team has come into this year’s winter campaign with a heightened degree of tenacity in hope to turn the corner and punch a state ticket.
With all hands on deck returning to the roster, coupled with additions of Montana Ferres and transfer, Sierra Gerber, the Rangers boast depth and speed across the board.
“The girls are very hungry,” said head coach Hollie Darden. “Almost all the girls attended team camp and played an intense summer league schedule. We really grew together as a group, physically and mentally.”
Last year, Dufur won 19 games, claimed a Big Sky West Division title and made it to the district title game, a big jump from 2011-2012.
At one point in the season, Dufur moved up the rankings to the top-5 and ranked in the top-15 in both scoring offense (44.8 points a game) and defense (34.4).
Given the number of returners and newcomers, those numbers could improve as the season moves along.
In looking at Dufur’s roster, there are five seniors and four juniors at the core along with sophomore guards Hannah Harris and Tianna Ellis.
Also at the guard positions, Ferres, Megan Elam, Alexa Macias, Sammi Ghramm and Gerber will see extended minutes on the hardwood.
With Macias patrolling the point guard slot, coach Darden has an experienced all-leaguer that is keen on finding the open player for optimum scoring chances – a bonus for any hoops team.
“Without effective guard play, no team can function on the offensive end of the floor,” coach Darden said. “We are continuing to develop and improve in our guard play efficiency. Having veteran players that understand what we are trying to accomplish offensively and getting the ball to where it needs to be to set up other players to score is a huge priority for our team.”
Down low, coach Darden, has penciled in Teneille McDonald, Aimeelyn Miller, Kelly Heemsah and Taylor Darden.
Entering camp, low post scoring is critical.
“Our goal offensively, as a team, is to score as many points as possible in the paint,” said coach Darden. “Whether it is entering the ball by pass, penetration, offensive rebounding or creating turnovers we understand the importance of creating easy scoring opportunities.”
Last season, when the Lady Rangers had their offense in a groove scoring more than 45 points, they were 13-1, with the lone loss coming in a 59-56 state sub-round loss to Portland Waldorf.
Coach Darden said that the team is continuing to improve its ability and confidence in shooting the outside shot.
Once those perimeter attempts start falling, it could free some space for other players.
“We always look to have a balanced scoring attack with all girls on the floor representing an offensive scoring threat ability,” the Dufur coach said. “All players are expected to shoot the ball and attack offensively within the context of our offensive structure.”
While the offense appears to be in good form, defense is the marquee part of the game Dufur consistently excels.
This team has length and plenty of speed to burn, especially with the likes of Harris, Ferres, McDonald and company flying all over the court.
On nine occasions last year, the Rangers stymied opposing offenses to less than 27 points, with a season-low 13 allowed to Horizon Christian in a 41-point league win on Jan. 12.
The Ranger coach plans to continue with the same defensive schemes that led to several fast break scoring chances and turnovers.
“We will be using a variety of team half and full court pressure packages with an emphasis on controlling the boards on both ends of the floor,” coach Darden said.
One of the luxuries afforded the Ranger coach is continuity in the program.
This athletic success, on and off the court, starts in the fall with the volleyball team placing third at the state tournament, and basketball gives the team an edge on the competition.
Coach Darden is well aware that his group will face the opposing team’s best effort on a nightly basis though — so the goal is to play as a team on both ends of the court emphasizing ball pressure, rebounding, quality possessions on offense and a balanced scoring attack.
“This group, more than any other that I have coached, understands that there are no easy games,” coach Darden said. “We must prepare for every game as if it is our last and let our performance on the court in practices and games show the level of intensity, mental focus and execution required to play and perform at a high level with greater consistency.”
Dufur hosts Klickitat, Wash. at 6 p.m. Friday for the opening round of the Ranger Hoops Tournament.
If they win, the Rangers play in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday.