Posted On: 11/30/18 5:12 PM
The 2018-19 season is upon us and it’s time to take a look at the top leagues in the state. We look today at the Mt. Hood Conference.
After all the teams took their lumps in non-league play, the Mt Hood Conference race was competitive all season long, and the title came down to the league’s final few games as Central Catholic, Barlow, Oregon City, and Clackamas all finished with identical 11-3 records. Of those four, it was Barlow that caught fire at the end as they whipped both South Salem and Sprague to advance to the state tournament. The Bruins knocked off Tualatin in the first round and while they lost to Jefferson and Lincoln, they came home with a sixth place trophy and momentum in the program going into 2018-19.
Changes for 2018-19
The Mt Hood Conferences loses one team as Oregon City moves back to Three Rivers League, but Sandy moves back in after a few years at the 5A level.
State Tournament Threats
Barlow – Last year’s Cinderella-type run to Chiles simply sets the stage for this season, where the Bruins are unanimous favorites to win the state title. Save two seniors in Austin Forrar and Cole Edmonson and one transfer out in Daello Portin-Chapman (to Gresham), head coach Tom Johnson has everyone else back. Jesse White will lead the charge and the 6-foot junior is capable of doing some big things. A deadeye shooter from the outside, White played high-level AAU basketball and worked hard on improving his speed and athleticism. Alongside him is fellow classmate Evan Inglesby who could be one of the most underrated juniors in the state. He’s got good size on the wing at 6-foot-3, is ultra-athletic, and can do damage both inside and out. Dominic Jacoby will be one of the stalwarts in the paint. The 6-foot-3 senior is a little undersized, but he works hard and is extremely tough. Others that should contribute include senior Jared Vedus and juniors Jaren Hunter, Joey Wolcott, and Trevor Jones. Johnson is the dean of all MHC coaches and this is one of his more talented groups in quite some time.
Central Catholic – Head coach David Blue once again has a talented group and while they are still young, they do have experience as many of their young guys have cut their team on varsity basketball. The offense will likely be run through ultra-talented sophomore Darius Gakwasi who can pretty much do everything on the basketball floor. At 6-foot-5 he has size to help out up front but also the versatility as a ball-handler and passer to push the ball up the floor on offense. Isaiah Amato can also set the table as the 6-foot-4 junior has tremendous size and skill at the point. He could be one of the top passers in the state. The Rams have size inside with 6-foot-8 junior Gage Ainsle and 6-foot-7 Sataievior Ayilola. When motivated, Ayilola in particular can be a very dominant player. Tyson Parker will provide senior leadership and hustle in the backcourt.
Sandy – It may seem ambitious to rank the Pioneers this high as they move up to 6A but the truth of the matter is had they stayed in 5A, Sandy was a state tournament threat. Head coach Jason Maki has a good blend of experience, and shooting to compete for a post-season berth. Colton Gorski and Pierce Roeder are seniors that earned All-Conference honors last year and both are talented offensive players. Junior Kaleb Hubbard adds length at 6-foot-5 and can also shoot it, and senior Jaden Robinson is an athletic wing who can finish at the rim. Sandy lost some size due to injury but as long as they take care of the ball and shoot it well enough, they will contend.
Gresham – It may seem ambitious to have Gresham as a post-season team – especially since the Gophers only won five games total last season. But head coach Erik Lyslo has some momentum going now in his third year at the school, and the addition of some talented transfers may put them over the hump. Junior Ethan Abrahamahson returns and he will no doubt continue his high-scoring ways, but he’s got some help this year with incoming senior Daello Portin-Chapman coming on board. His ability to create off the dribble for himself and others will be a huge help and it wouldn’t be surprising to also see him average 20+ ppg. Eric Puclic is a transfer from Reynolds who can also get hot from the outside, and guys like Isaiah Butler and Andy Herrejon will help down low. The Gophers lack size but expect a big jump from them in the standings this year.
David Douglas – As usual, the Scots will be in the post-season mix. Head coach Chad Reeves once again has a roster that seems to be filled with speed and athleticism but lacking in raw size. Ameer Mohammed, a 6-foot senior would have been a top offensive threat, but he’s moved to Las Vegas. Other returnees with varsity experience include senior Geovantay Baxter, junior Jermaine Ellett-Robinson, and sophomore Trenton Templeton. Senior Jediah Dorn Barrow is the tallest player on the roster at 6-foot-4.
Centennial – Coming back to Centennial for his second stint, head coach John Poetsch knew challenges lay ahead. It’s another year of building for the Eagles but they should be able to shoot and be more skilled with the ball. The key will lie in how they defend. Tommy Anderson and Jalen Calvert were part-time starters last season but will have a larger role, as will Jonah Walter who will also be in the rotation. Football player Jimmie Barton came on in league play last year and should hopefully do the same this season. Travis Johnson and Nate Caro are two athletic sophomores worth watching out for.
Clackamas – For the first time since he took over at Clackamas, it will be a rebuilding year for head coach Cameron Mitchell. Only a couple of players come back from last year’s varsity squad and the team will be incredibly young and inexperienced. A player with lots of varsity experience is senior Jailen Hammer, but the athletic wing’s experience is at Sprague HS since he’s a new transfer in. At season’s start he’s only been with the team a week. Other Cavs to watch out for include senior David Aspidov and sophomore Jack Dorn. Aspidov is scrappy, especially on the boards and Thorn is one of the better shooters and offensive players on the team. As opposed to previous seasons, the Cavs will be undersized in just about every matchup but they will work hard and try to improve as the season goes along and the football players get in hoops shape.
Reynolds – Head coach Ted Aubin’s team will be much improved from the three wins of a year ago, but it will still be a work in progress. The Raiders have some athleticism as several guys from the football team are key contributors, namely senior Kehdon Fletcher and junior Dominique Miller. Senior point guard Eric Martinez has improved over the summer and senior forward Sterling Bell could surprise.
2. Central Catholic
5. David Douglas
Player of the Year
Jesse White, Barlow. There may be no player in the state harder on himself than the 6-foot junior. Ask White about his off-season and his self-assessment will be it was completely below standards. There’s no question he will use that as fuel this year and will likely challenge for the state lead in scoring average. He’ll be doing that for a team likely bound for the state tournament too.
All-League Predictions: White; Evan Inglesby, Barlow; Darius Gakwasi, Central Catholic; Colton Gorski, Sandy; Ethan Abrahamson, Gresham
Colton Gorski, Sandy. Yes, he’s a multi-year varsity player at Sandy but he qualifies for this award as he’s a newcomer to the 6A Mt. Hood Conference. Gorski is strong, can score at all three levels, and will be trying hard to impress college coaches in the hopes of playing at the next level.
The consensus opinion among the league coaches is that the league’s top two teams are clear – Barlow and Central Catholic. Barlow made a surprise run to the state tournament last year and have all the pieces in place to not only make it to Chiles but depending on the matchups, make it one step further and reach the final game. Central Catholic is extremely talented and could also make a long run. Spots three through eight do really look like a tossup but Sandy looks like they should fit into 6A just fine and they have the returnees to make the playoffs and Gresham should continue their ascend upward.