Posted On: 12/4/18 7:00 AM

The 2018-19 season is underway and it’s time to take a look at our statewide projections for the top state tournament contenders for 5A, the Top 10, and the All-State teams.

Top State Tournament Contenders

Churchill – Head coach Kelly Bokn is excited about his group in 2018-19. The reason why? There’s some serious talent on this roster. Three starters are back with Isaiah Wallace and Silas Bennion at the guards and Kaelan O’Neill at forward. O’Neill in particular was missed late last year when he missed the post-season due to mono. Three other varsity returnees are Ejim Akuma III, Dylan Carson, and Mason Case, all of whom should have larger roles this year. Bokn might also have the top newcomers in the league as Brian Goracke transfers in from Monroe, Evan Pia comes in from California, and freshman Samaje Morgan is highly touted. The Lancers will press, trap, run, and jump and expect to see shots fly from all over the court. Churchill lacks size – big man Jonathon Nchekwube moved to Portland – but the Lancers have the athleticism and overall talent to not only make it to the state tournament but take home the championship trophy.

Crater – The Comets lose quite a bit from last year’s team, but has enough talent back to make a state tournament run. It all begins with 6-foot-10 sophomore Nate Bittle, who emerged as a national college basketball recruit over the summer. His length goes on for days which makes him a dominant shot-blocking force and on offense he has a silky smooth and deadly three-point jumper. He’s a candidate for state player of the year. Getting Bittle the ball will be junior point guard Jayden Vranes, who is a deadly offensive player himself. Senior Nate Horton is also back providing experience, and wings Nate Johnson and Kruger Edwards will find themselves with larger roles this year.

Crescent Valley – Head coach Michael Stair is playing things conservatively for now, but the Raiders may have what it takes to not only compete for a playoff spot but perhaps sneak into the state tournament. There are two varsity returnees in 6-foot-3 wing Seth King and 6-foot-4 Cam Sanders, who both came off the bench last year but will have expanded roles. King is aggressive offensively and Sanders will be a steadying influence. Junior Wes Raab and sophomore Justin Hamilton are newcomers that should have an impact. The key for Crescent Valley will be how they defend and take care of the basketball.

La Salle – The Falcons lose some size but that’s all good for head coach Sean Christiansen because that will allow him to spread things out this season. The reason why that might not be such a bad idea is because La Salle has some good guards to execute that strategy. Jace Norton will find himself the benefactor of this, as the sharp-shooting lefty should find himself open for three on many an occasion. Fellow senior Alex Boyd will also benefit – he’s a good athlete whose size and strength will help the Falcons compete on the boards. His brother, sophomore Nic Boyd, will step into running the show at the point and he’ll get some help from fellow sophomores Ian Simmons and Kendric Taylor. La Salle lacks the size to beat out Wilsonville for the league title but has the talent to make a state tournament run for sure.

Parkrose – There’s always raw talent at Parkrose, but is this the year it all comes together? Head coach Donnell Morgan is hopeful that it does. One of the main reasons is the rapid development of Damontae Burns. The sophomore combo guard was dominant in stretches in summer ball and he’ll be given the ball from day one. Also on board for the Broncos is Travion Weiss, a 6-foot-4 senior transfer from Hudson’s Bay. Weiss is wide bodied but extremely nimble and skillful for his size. Eligible for varsity this season is junior Tyjuan Overton, who is a physical presence on the wing. Senior point guard Shawn Briggs brings a bundle of energy on both ends and 6-foot-9 Solomon Campbell will provide a shot-blocking presence on defense, and a couple of sophomores in Jason Davis and Tre Anderson have vast potential.

Pendleton – Head coach Zach Dong may be brand new to Pendleton but he’s got some experienced returnees that will help him mightly in the transition. The biggest one is Tyler Newsom as the 6-foot-4 senior was player of the year in the old Columbia River Conference last season. He’s an athletic wing who can shoot and score with the best of them in 5A. Also returning is explosive 6-foot guard Dakota Sams who has deep range on his shot. Willie Camp and Cam Sandford are experienced seniors coming back and newcomers such as Lane Maher and Kason Broncheau will play major roles. The Buckaroos are the odds-on favorites to take the league title in the new Intermountain Conference.

Silverton – Offensively, the Foxes can run with anyone in the state – maybe at any level. Head coach Jamie McCarty has four of his key guys back from last season and has added a couple of newcomers that will make Silverton deep and dangerous. Junior David Gonzales was a first team all-league honoree last season and McCarty believes he’s one of the best point guards in the state at any level. He’ll be paired up in the backcourt with one of top newcomers in all of 5A, Jonah Downey who comes in from Santiam. The 5-foot-10 senior is ultra-athletic and has one of the quickest first steps around. Senior Josiah Roth and junior Grant Dunn are back and at 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-6 respectfully, provide size to go along with skill on the wings. Senior captain Levi Nielsen is back to do the dirty work as the team’s best rebounder and defender, but don’t be surprised to see him put up some offensive numbers. Drake Ulven and freshman Jordan McCarty, the coach’s son, will add depth for a squad that could very well make a good case for playing in the state title game when it’s all said and done.

Springfield – The Millers return five of their top seven, most importantly first team all-league standout Zach Brown. The 6-foot-6 senior has added a long range jumper to his overall game and defensively, he’s one of the top shot blockers in the state. He could challenge for Midwestern League POY honors. Marcell Hill and Jordan Carillo are back to man the backcourt and others such as Charlie Grousbeck and Javi Carrillo will be expected to step up offensively for head coach Eric Orton. Springfield should qualify for the post-season but which seed they get out of the MWL will be a tossup.

Thurston – The defending champs had several graduation losses but the main two key guys are back – seniors Isaac Lange and Mason Miller. Lange is an electric, ultra-athletic guard whose mane of long hair only adds to the attention he attracts on the basketball floor with his high motor style of play. Contrasting yet complimenting Lange is the 6-foot-8 Miller, who brings a lunchpail, blue collar workmanlike approach down in the paint, but has also added a face-up three to his game. The Colts added two transfers in Trey Bryant from Springfield and DeJean Alonzo from Cottage Grove, both of whom will contribute. Head coach Blaine Liberatore will also have some help from the state title-winning football team, in particular, quarterback Cade Christ. Another run at the state title appears to be in order with this crew.

Wilsonville – The Wildcats have been arguably the premier program in 5A the past few years and will be ready to make up for last year’s loss in the finals. Head coach Chris Roche has a roster that is filled with talent from top to bottom. It will all start out with his son, Jack Roche, running the point. The 6-foot senior has a flair and feel for the game and should capably lead the up-tempo attack, with other guards such as Grant Irby and Zachary Rivers providing support. Junior guard Gabe Reichle will launch daggers from three-point range and junior post/wing Dakota Reber will not only finish thundering dunks but sink teardrop threes as well. The Wildcats are the team to beat in the Northwest Oregon Conference and it would not be a surprise to see them playing on the last day of the season.

Top 10 Teams

1. Churchill
2. Wilsonville
3. Silverton
4. Thurston
5. Crater
6. Springfield
7. La Salle
8. Pendleton
9. Parkrose
10. Crescent Valley

State Title Game Projection

Churchill vs. Wilsonville

For the second year in a row, the Wildcats will reach the title only game to get turned away by a Midwestern League opponent – this time the Lancers of Churchill, who will help head coach Kelly Bokn finally get the 5A title to go along with the 6A title he won with Redmond in 2004.

Prep Hoops Preseason All State Teams

1st Team

Isaac Lange, Sr, Thurston – POY
Nathan Bittle, So, Crater
Dakota Reber, Jr, Wilsonville
Jack Roche, Sr, Wilsonville
Jace Norton, Sr, La Salle

2nd Team

Zach Brown, Sr, Springfield
Isaiah Wallace, Jr, Churchill
Mason Miller, Sr, Thurston
Jonah Downey, Sr, Silverton
Damontae Burns, So, Parkrose