Posted On: 11/28/18 3:00 PM
The 2018-19 season is upon us and it’s time to take a look at the top leagues in the state. We continue our previews with the Southwest Conference.
North Medford was the cream of the crop all season long, entering league play with a sizzling one-loss record and then only losing two games on the road by five or less points. It was fairly wide open after that with Grants Pass edging out Sheldon and South Eugene by a game, but overall five teams from the league made the post-season with Willamette squeaking in by winning a play-in game. As a whole, the league’s power ratings weren’t high enough for the schools to host critical post-season games so North Medford and Grants Pass had to travel (to Jesuit and Jefferson respectively) and winning on the road is awfully tough, which meant the conference as a whole missed out on the state tournament.
Changes for 2018-19
There’s one change to the league lineup – Willamette drops down to 5A, giving the conference only six teams. The remaining schools decided against playing each other three times (for the most part) and instead have picked up non-conference games instead.
State Tournament Threats
None – There doesn’t appear to be a true state tournament threat this year in the Southwest Conference.
Sheldon – The Irish will have what most teams in the state lack – size. Seniors Patrick Herbert and Dominic McGarvey will not only tower over opponents at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8 respectively, but both are good athletes that run the floor, hit the boards, and protect the rim on defense. Herbert of course is heading to Oregon to play football and McGarvey has a future on the hardwood in college. The key for head coach Daniel Clark’s team will be how the guards step up. Kameron Owen will be the marksman from three-point range while Jackson Tucker runs the point and Dawson Prickel does all of the little things.
South Eugene – On paper, the Axemen lose a lot with Jay Elmore moving on (he’s at Kimball Union Prep on the East Coast) but what head coach Dave Hancock loses in raw numbers he gains with more offensive balance. Senior Cole McAninch took care of business and signed early with Northwest Christian and should take on the role of the top perimeter threat and team captain along with fellow senior Jason Berryman. Aiden Clark will be the anchor in the middle and Hancock is excited about his big man’s improvement over the summer. Junior Sam Harris and Josh Paul will contribute at point guard and forward, respectfully. All-around junior Bryce Boettcher will serve as the team’s sixth man.
North Medford – Head coach Scott Plankenhorn sees four starters move on, but there’s a nice blend of size and athleticism coming back that will have the Black Tornado competing for a post-season berth. Seniors Elias Spence (the only returning starter) and Garrett Parker both come in at 6-foot-5 and both will be key frontcourt players. Darrius Wells is a quick point guard and Jaray Thomas and Jett Carpenter are two other backcourt performers to be aware of. The Black Tornado may not have what it takes to surpass the the two teams from Eugene but should battle it out for the third automatic post-season bid.
Grants Pass – Fighting with North Medford for the automatic bid will be the Cavemen. Head coach Tyler York doesn’t have a whole lot of size but he’s got some good overall athleticism (many of the players also play football) and perimeter play, especially in the form of senior point guard Taylor Anderson who should challenge for league player of the year honors. He’s the engine that makes the team goes and should see his numbers increase across the board. The Cavemen are in fact rather senior dominated as the likes of Ethan Lackey, Korbin Lopez, and Randy Clark will all have significant roles. With their lack of size, how the Cavemen compete will depend on how creative they can get with rebounding.
Roseburg – Roseburg has struggled the past two seasons and while head coach Mike Pardon’s team should be better in 2018-19, it may still be tough for them to compete against the others. Senior guard Collin Warmouth did have an outstanding summer and should challenge for All-League honors, and along with fellow 6-foot-7 senior Jonathan Stone, they are hoping to turn things around. Mountain View transfer Storm Scott adds some size at 6-foot-5 and more seniors such as Kaden Seely and Carson Ellis will also get playing time.
South Medford – The Panthers are young, small, and largely inexperienced as head coach James Wightman continues to build his own program focused on the defensive end. Sherman Hunter is the key returnee and should be the team’s top scorer and Trent DeBoer and Keegan Losinski are also back from last year. Freshman Junior Sleezer may very well be the starting point guard. It’s been a long while since the Singlers were at South Medford, but their home gym remains a tough place to play for opponents.
2. South Eugene
3. North Medford
4. Grants Pass
6. South Medford
Player of the Year
Collin Warmouth, Roseburg. It may not show up necessarily in the wins and losses, but the senior may be the most dominant offensive player in the league this season. Warmouth had an outstanding spring and summer playing high level AAU basketball with Team Fly and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him lead the league in scoring. After garnering First Team All-League honors the past two seasons, the third time should be the charm for him to earn POY honors.
All-League Predictions: Warmouth; Taylor Anderson, Grants Pass; Cole McAninch, South Eugene; Dominic McGarvey, Sheldon; Patrick Hebert, Sheldon
Josh Paul, South Eugene. Paul comes to South Eugene from rival Sheldon and will step right into the starting lineup. He’s a talented offensive player with some size at 6-foot-4 who will be able to play off of the attention given to the likes of Cole McAninch and Aidan Clark. Hancock believes it’s the addition of Paul as an X-factor that makes the Axe more of a threat to win the league title.
While maybe not head and shoulders above everyone else, Sheldon and South Eugene do appear to be the class of the league and it will be a battle between the two Eugene schools for first place in the league. After that, North Medford and Grants Pass will fight over third and then South Medford and Roseburg will bring up the rear. Like last season, unless someone in the league can really build up their rating, the route to the state tournament will likely involve having to win a tough road game against a Portland-area squad. Sheldon might have the best chance at doing that due to their size as most of the state doesn’t have the ability to match up against that, but in the end we feel that while the quality of the league is solid, they will likely get shut out of the Chiles Center again in 2018-19.