By ADAM LAPIERRE
News staff writer
March 1, 2006
Friday night was senior night and the last game of the season for the Hood River Valley boys’ basketball team. For Tim Chance, Mark Oppenheimer and Travis Moore, the game would be their last as Eagles on the HRVHS hardwood. And as the three seniors stepped onto the floor in a pre-game ceremony, the essence of the boys’ season was revealed: It was a growing year.
The game would end in a dismal 48-31 loss to the Intermountain Conference (IMC) number-three team, the Redmond Panthers, leaving the Eagles with a 4-12 league record; good enough for a tie with Summit High School for second to last in the conference. Chance led the seniors with six points; Oppenheimer had three and Moore had two in one of the lowest-scoring games for all three.
“Our guys were a close knit group and it was fun to watch them come together and share the experience,” Coach Phil Vesel said. “Being on a team should be special because you are part of something bigger than yourself … All three of our seniors gave themselves up for the program and I am proud of their effort. Tim was a great senior captain for us and I was pleased with his effort day in and day out. Mark surpassed my expectations for him this season. He became a solid perimeter player and he made the big threes against The Dalles, which saved us that night. And Travis is the kind of kid every parent would want. He is a great student and a hard worker.”
On the upside of Friday night’s loss, only three seniors gave flowers to their parents at half-court. Last year the crowd said adieu to seven seniors, four of whom were on the starting lineup. And in the transition from losing an entire lineup to building another, the boys managed only one league win less than last season.
“This season was a building year for us,” Vesel commented. “We were inexperienced from the beginning, especially at the guard positions. We struggled at times with our discipline and our ability to play every possession, but I believe we improved as the year progressed. Overall, I know we got better and I know our kids learned a lot about what it takes to be successful.”
This year’s game reports read similarly throughout the team’s streaks of losses: ‘The boys struggled to execute; they didn’t take good care of the ball; they played close but couldn’t finish strong in the end.’ When the team put those three elements together well, they played solid ball, and they won games; when they did not, they lost by 12, 15, 23, even 47 points.
“I think the most difficult part was the realization of our younger players that they had fundamental
weaknesses in their games and that it is difficult to change in the middle of a season,” Vesel said. “The biggest thing our team was able to accomplish was learning what it means to be a varsity player. The game is much more than shooting baskets and I think our guys understand that now. The next step will be for them to work on their weaknesses during the off season. Larry Bird said it best: ‘Players are made in the off-season.’”
And the Eagles will have plenty of off-season opportunities this year, as summer basketball is big-time in Oregon. According to Vesel, most 4A varsity programs in the state participate in summer leagues and camps. Teams play as many as 40 games every summer, which gives players invaluable experience and opportunities to develop together in a different forum than they experience during the season.
“Summer ball is important because it gives players opportunities to play against good competition and allows teams to grow and learn about themselves,” Vesel said. “It will be important for our younger guys to play because they will gain some experience playing against varsity level competition.”