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New conference, coach, bring fresh hope to Eagle boys’ basketball

By BEN MCCARTY

News staff writer

November 18, 2006

The new guy in town will have a tough job this winter.

First year Coach Zach Pauls will be guiding the Hood River Valley boys’ basketball team into the Mount Hood Conference this year, and it does not stand to be an easy task.

Hood River is coming off a six win year in the Intermountain conference as it transitions into the Portland-centered Mount Hood. Central Catholic, Centennial and Barlow all made it to the state playoffs for the league last season and all will strongly contend for the top spots in the league again this year.

Pauls said his goal as a first year coach in a new conference is to help Hood River establish itself as a competitor. “I like what I see so far,” Pauls said of his new team. “They are coming out and playing with intensity.”

The Eagles biggest shortcoming this season is a lack of height, but Pauls thinks that returning post player K.C Christensen will be able to hold his own in the blocks.

For his part, Christensen is excited about the new style that Pauls has brought to the team.

“It’s a great new offense,” Christensen said. “It feels like people really want to be here.”

Fellow returning player Jon Ing knows that the move into the Mount Hood presents its own set of challenges, but feels that Hood River can play with the rest of the conference.

“It means shorter bus rides,” Ing said. “And our guys just have to work harder.”

Hood River has played teams from the Mount Hood Conference during summer league play in previous years, so the team has a good idea of what it is getting into.

Christensen and Ing would both like to see the Eagles right in the mix of the playoff hunt when the season winds down.

“We want to make a run at the playoffs,” Ing said. “This school has not been (to the playoffs) in a long time.”

In practice Pauls has been pushing his team to be quick and aggressive, traits he feels that they will need when they start conference play.

“We’re going to go out there and play full court defense and press hard,” Pauls said. He hopes that his team’s defensive intensity and fast moving offense will be able to offset its lack of height at the post, and allow his players to take advantage of their perimeter shooting skills.

As the season opener draws closer, Pauls knows that there is still work to be done, but thinks that his team has the right mindset heading into the season.

“We are going to work hard every night,” he said. “We are going to work to improve and we want to improve every night.”

It has been awhile since Hood River Valley made it into the postseason, and Pauls is wasting no time in trying to bring that skid to an end.

“We want to be the hardest working team on the floor any given night,” he said.

Whether they make into the playoffs at the end of the season or not, the team wants to show the Mount Hood Conference that it plans to compete and not to be a place holder at the bottom of the standings.

“We want to make a playoff run and get this placed packed and loud,” Christensen said. “We want to make Hood River proud.”

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