Posted On: 11/29/18 2:00 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 at the newly created Pacific Conference.

2017-18 Review

The Pacific Conference is brand new (or a return from the old depending on how you look at it) for 2018-19. McMinnville comes in from the Greater Valley League, where they not only made the post-season but won their first game over Tigard before bowing out to eventual champion Grant. In addition to the Grizzlies, Forest Grove also joins the Pacific from the Greater Valley. Sherwood also made the post-season from the Three Rivers League last year, but bowed out quickly in the first round of the playoffs. Newberg comes over from the TRL as well. Liberty is the other Pacific Conference member to have made the post-season last year coming out of the Metro League, where they were also bounced in the first round by Jefferson. Century and Glencoe join the Falcons from the Metro.

State Tournament Threats

None – There doesn’t appear to be a true state tournament threat this year in the Pacific Conference.

Post-Season Programs

Sherwood – Of all the teams in the new league, it appears that head coach Rahim Tufts has the squad with the best blend of talent, size, and experience. It all starts at the top where point guard Jamison Guerra will be running the show. The 5-foot-9 junior was First Team All-Three Rivers League last year and got a lot of experience playing high level AAU basketball over the summer. Senior Braden Thorn could be one of the more underrated players in the state and at 6-foot-5, he can score inside and from deep. Fellow senior Tyler Hix is a defensive presence on the perimeter and senior Charlie Bulfinch and junior Blake Jensen will man the interior.

Newberg – Newberg may have as good as a one-two punch in the league as anybody with Alex Jaczko and Jack Chlumak. Jaczko, the 6-foot-5 senior, is a versatile and dominant scorer who may find getting buckets in this new league even easier than the TRL. A 4.0 student, he is getting recruited by some high-academic college programs. Chlumak, a 6-foot-4 junior, is a point guard with size who gets to the basket with ease. He has built more strength onto his frame and improved his outside shooting as well. There are some nice surrounding pieces for head coach Mark Brown in seniors Kyle Kruse and Caleb Muthia as well as junior Luke Esmond to make a run at not only the league title and post-season but a win or two in the playoffs.

McMinnville – Head coach Willie Graham loses a huge contributor in current Linfield freshman Aaron Baune from last year’s team, not only in terms of production but in terms of leadership as well. But there is talent back for the Grizzlies, beginning with Luke Arzner who will start at point guard. Blessed with 6-foot-3 size and athleticism, the senior is one of the more slept on players in 6A. Fellow senior Parker Spence is also back in the backcourt and his ability to score will be vital to McMinnville’s success. Tyler Logsdon is tall and lanky at 6-foot-5, but could be the team’s top three-point shooter. The rest of the squad will fill in the gaps.

In Transition

Forest Grove – The Vikings are certainly happy to move into a league where there won’t be as much travel back and forth for games. Head coach Greg Evers has an interesting blend of players with potential. Guy Littlefield may only be a junior, but he’s a well-built, strong point guard who can really take it to the basket. 6-foot-5 sophomore Braden Hudgins has length but also a deadly outside jumper. The Vikings have some size with 6-foot-5 senior Ayden Purcell and 6-foot-6 senior Henry Tonges and Evers promises you’ll see some dunks out of his crew this season, but they are likely a year away from making serious post-season noise.

Liberty – The theme for the Falcons will be their athleticism as much of the roster comes from Liberty’s successful football team.  6-foot-3 junior Marquis Brown and 6-foot-2 senior Aidan Maloney will be key guys on the wings and 6-foot-3 junior Tyler Rockwell will provide some shooting.  6-foot-6 senior Trevor Walker will be the anchor in the paint.  Head coach Brian Martin is excited about Liberty’s move to the Pacific Conference and feels that the program can yearly challenge for a title.  There may be to much experience and scoring to replace from last year’s team but the Falcons are sure to provide plenty of competition in league play.

Century – Head coach Scott Kellar has seen it all since he started at the school when it opened in the mid-90’s and he’s happy to be out of the Metro League. While the Jaguars don’t have the overall depth to challenge for a top three spot in the Pacific Conference – especially with the loss of senior Daniel Berger to a knee injury – Century has a solid young core that should give teams a run for their money. The Jags are guard-oriented with Edy Essien, Ethan Parish, and Ejay Tugano in particular as sophomore guards that have a lot of promise. 6-foot-6 post and baseball standout Kyler Somers is brand new to the game but he could be a surprise.

Glencoe – It’s been a long time since the glory years of the 1980’s for this proud program and 2018-19 looks like another tough year for Glencoe. The Crimson Tide have only one player taller than 6-foot-3 in 6-foot-5 senior Dylan Walter and in general they don’t have much experience either. At the very least, Glencoe should be more competitive in the Pacific Conference than they were in the Metro League.

League Predictions

1. Sherwood
2. Newberg
3. McMinnville
4. Forest Grove
5. Liberty
6. Century
7. Glencoe

Player of the Year

Alex Jaczko, Newberg.  Of all the players in the new league, there is nobody with as good a resume as Jaczko who was a First Team All-Three Rivers League performer last year. The 6-foot-5 senior can already score down low but he used the summer playing high-level AAU basketball for the first time to further develop his shooting and ability to score off the dribble. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jaczko lead the league in scoring while taking the Tigers to a post-season berth.

All-League Predictions: Jaczko; Jamison Guerra, Sherwood; Braden Thorn, Sherwood; Luke Arzner, McMinnville; Jack Chlumak, Newberg

Top Sleeper/Newcomer

Braden Hudgins, Forest Grove. Hudgins played varsity minutes last season but could be set to have a breakout year in 2018-19. Hudgins is a deadeye shooter from the perimeter and with added strength and experience, he should be one of Forest Grove’s top players this season and even a candidate for All-League recognition.

Outlook

It’s an exciting time for the schools in the new Pacific Conference. For most all of them, instead of looking at a middle-of-the-pack finish they are instead going to compete for a league title and automatic berth to the playoffs. As previously noted, it appears that Sherwood has the best combination of factors to make them the favorite for first but Newberg and McMinnville aren’t far behind. The rest of the pack will be competitive, but lack the depth and experience – and schedule strength – to make the post-season. Sherwood, Newberg, and McMinnville all have what it takes to win a game or maybe two in the playoffs but the season will likely end for the league before the state tournament.