While a new season brings a dose of renewed hope, The Dalles girls’ basketball team looks to take its game a step further than the previous years.
Unfortunately, the Riverhawks have been stuck in a similar spot in recent memory – One win short of vaulting into the state tournament site.
But, with Iliana Telles, Brooke McCall, Lori Cimmiyotti and Kailin Hoylman, TD is looking to end that drought as it strives to hoist state-championship blue.
“The last couple of years, four years, we have had unfortunate luck, whether it is injuries, a bad night here or there or a bad draw in the playoffs,” said TD coach Dan Telles. “That is how it goes in basketball. As it is, we can only control parts of the game that we can control. We have to play better when it counts and create those opportunities for ourselves and play better in those big-time games.”
TD finished the 2014-15 season with 13 wins, finished third in the Columbia River Conference, and had a 56-40 play-in win over Liberty, before losing in a state first-round game, 57-40, to Springfield.
Although the Riverhawks lose the services of Olivia Starks, Katie Conklin and Morgan Goslin due to graduation, Ivorie Taylor, Sierra Watson, Marissa Heemsah, Jodi Thomasian and post players Jennifer Bonham and Karen Jesch join the varsity ranks for coach Telles.
The Dalles (13-12, 4-5 last year) finished 7-7 in the past 14 games, but averaged 2.6 points more per game than the 44.0 it was averaging earlier in the season.
Kailin Hoylman, Iliana Telles and Brooke McCall will score their fair share of the points, but Hoylman added that scoring distribution is critical to the winning formula.
“Those other girls are going to be very important to our success this year,” Hoylman said. “It doesn’t take just three people to have a team out there and win games. It takes everyone on the court working their hardest. Having them here trying their best really gives us confidence that we can trust them to make the right plays to help us win more games.”
Telles averaged 9.5 points, three rebounds, 1.5 assists and two steals a game in her nine league games and McCall, a 5-11 wing, averaged 12.2 points and four rebounds a game.
In offensive sets, the Riverhawks will shoot 3-pointers and try a few mid-range shots, but using size in the paint to rebound is important.
Jesch, McCall and Bonham can fill that role vacated by the 6-foot-2 inch Starks.
“We got a lot of strong players, who can block out well and jump for the ball,” McCall said. “We just got to block out and keep everyone out of the key.”
At one point in the league season, the Riverhawks had lost three of four games, but wound up winning consecutive games on Feb. 10 and 13 to climb back into the postseason race.
The team went 4-5 in CRC action, but two of the losses were by three points or less.
On Feb. 20, the Riverhawks had a late 39-36 lead, but then No. 9-ranked Pendleton came back to secure a 47-39 home win.
Before a lopsided 53-27 romp over Hood River Valley on Feb. 24, the Riverhawks played close to the vest in a pair of tough games against Hermiston and Pendleton.
On Feb. 17 in Hermiston against the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs, TD lost 46-43, and three days later, they lost 47-39 to Pendleton.
Those close games showed they can stand toe-to-toe with some of the best teams.
Offensively, the Hawks hit on 44.3 points a game and they also allowed 44.3 points per tilt, but amassed an 8-0 record when giving up 40 points or fewer.
For the past seven years, TD has been one of the better defensive units in the 5A classification, so with assistant coach Craig Compton back on staff, the defense figures to be just as formidable.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense because it creates points for us,” Compton said. “We are not the best at one thing, we are good a lot of different things. We do drills that put us in help positions. If one person gets beat, we will have one or two girls there to help stop the penetration. Once we get the steal or the steal or the rebound, we are going the other way.”
In looking at the Columbia River Conference, coach Telles sees Hermiston, the 2014 state runner-up, as team that could contend for another title run, but the rest of the other teams such as Pendleton, The Dalles and Hood River Valley will battle it out for the final two playoff spots.
“Hermiston is the top dog. Everyone is going to try and knock them off. They return everybody but (Abi) Drotzmann and (Tavin) Headings. They lost in the state championship, so they are No. 1,” the Riverhawk coach said. “We are trying to get there. I think we have the potential to pull it off against them. We gave them a scare last year. Is Hermiston unbeatable? No. Between the rest of us? It is going to be a dogfight. I think that we have edge, but anything can happen. It is a long season.”
The Dalles has been knocking on the door for the past few years and Hoylman is hopeful this group can break the door down and take it a step further.
“I am very confident that we can go to state this year. I also know that we got really close to beating Hermiston last year and it was just that we had a rough quarter,” Hoylman said. “If we can get out of that, I think we can do really well in our league.”
TD kicks off the season at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at home against Wilson.