March Madness may be ongoing at the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Tournament, but Canby’s youth teams collected their hardware early this month, with the boys’ eighth-grade gold basketball team and girls’ sixth-grade gold basketball team combining to bring home three state titles.
Both teams stormed through their respective seasons, with the girls posting a fantastic 40-6 record and the boys racking up an almost absurd 48 wins against only four losses.
The girls defeated McMinnville 29-21 in the Oregon Middle School State Basketball Championship finals in Bend on March 5 to claim the community’s first sixth-grade title. Canby’s girls’ seventh- and eighth-grade gold basketball teams won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016, a feat this group will have a chance to reprise.
Winning the state championship was the team’s goal all season, says head coach Mindy Tilden.
“Winning the championship game was incredible,” she told the Current. “The girls had been playing well together all season, and this was the icing on the cake.”
“Playing well” might be, well, a bit of an understatement. The team earned their title bid by clawing past three tough opponents in Summit, Grants Pass and Lincoln. The state title was their ninth tournament championship this season.
The team’s success was no accident, Tilden said. The players put in the work they needed to improve, and the coaches regularly challenged them by matching them up against older and more experienced club teams.
“Creating a team that grows together was a big goal of mine,” Tilden said. “Developing trust and respect for each other within the team was key. I hope we did that as coaches.”
Canby’s championship team consisted of Avery Cousin, Emelia Chaffee, Nalani Winklebleck, True Pierson, Paige Meredith, Mady Nanna, Olivia Lawson, Khloe Scharmota, Ruby Tilden and Adelynn Smith. The coaches were Tilden, Tyler Smith and Chris Scharmota.
More good news came for the Canby youth sports scene the following weekend as the boys’ eighth graders put the finishing touches on their unprecedentedly successful year, winning 10 straight tournaments and ending on a 38-game winning streak to become the first team to ever win both the Salem and Bend state titles.
Canby first came back from a 16-point deficit to defeat Ida B. Wells 88-81 on March 5 to claim the Oregon Mid-High Madness State Basketball Championship in Salem, a relatively new tourney that has been gaining in popularity and prestige.
On their way to the title tilt, Canby had to take down three of the top-four-ranked teams in the state, including defending state champions Happy Valley Prep.
“I think the boys were super excited, but I’m not sure they really know how much they accomplished,” assistant coach Nick Cousin said. “The middle school state doesn’t separate based on school size so we had to beat all the big schools. We were the only 5A school to creep into the top five.”
But it was their finals opponent that would be the toughest matchup. Though Wells came in ranked a lowly 28th, they were no Cinderella, bringing on three high-level club players in an attempt to win the state tourney — which nearly succeeded.
“They won by large margins all the way to the championship,” Cousin said. “And they jumped out to a large lead early, but our boys battled and pulled it out.”
In the Oregon Middle School State Basketball Championship finals in Bend on March 12, Canby again trailed their opponent, Mountainside, 8-0, in the opening minutes before roaring back to win 51-47. It was Canby’s first state title in that tournament in 22 years.
Cousin attributed the team’s success to a combination of factors.
“Unselfish kids,” he said. “This team didn’t care who scored; they just wanted to win. Their practices were always positive, fun and fast-paced. This is a special group of boys who just love to play basketball.”
He also was quick to give all the credit to the team’s two co-head coaches, Joe Roberts and Joe Ford.
“I cannot give enough credit to how Joe and Joe prepared these 11 boys to be successful,” Cousin said. “They taught them to trust each other on the court, believe in each other, and good things will happen. I was happy they let me tag along for this fun season.”
Cousin recalled how, in their first practice, Roberts asked the boys what their goals were for the season. They were to win a state championship, beat Happy Valley Prep for the first time and win the Seaside tournament for the first time.
They accomplished all three — and then some.
For his part, Roberts refused to let Cousin downplay his contributions, calling him the “heart of the team,” organizing fundraisers, special workouts, transportation and more throughout the season.
“If not for him, the boys and coaches would not have had such a memorable experience,” Roberts said of Cousin. “This has been the best group of kids and coaches, and my only regret is that it is over so soon.”
The team consisted of Matt Gooding, Landon Stegmeier, Carter Lawson, Jacob Dewar, Joseph Roberts, Alec Walker, Cooper Cousin, Dominic Salinas, Hunter Ford, Ryder Ford and Jack Brauckmiller.
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