By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

New Year brings new challenges for local basketball teams

We start in the West Valley League and boys basketball, where two of the usual suspects (Horizon Christian and Dayton) are at the top, with surprise team Westside Christian also fighting its way into the mix.

The No. 1-ranked Hawks (7-1) are already 2-0 in the WVL with wins vs. Amity and Gervais, and they have solid nonconference wins vs. Regis, Portland Adventist, Summit and West Albany. Horizon Christian begins the rest of its WVL schedule Jan. 7 starting with Sheridan (6-2), and its annual trip to Dayton is Jan. 11, which is always a must-see game on the calendar.

Speaking of the Pirates, Dayton is 6-4 and also 2-0 in the WVL. The Pirates lost their first games to 3A/2A opponents in more than a year in December but responded with four straight wins before losing to North Valley in the championship game of the Southern Oregon Subaru Christmas Classic over the weekend. Dayton plays at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Willamina and plays at Gervais before hosting the Hawks.

One thing to watch out for, Dayton’s schedule is front-loaded with home games. Not saying the veteran Pirates will buckle playing on the road, but they do play five of their final seven games away from home.

Amity (7-3) was a state-qualifier last season from the WVL, and the Warriors are picking up where they left off this season. Still, an early loss to the Hawks means they are already fighting from behind. Amity lost four games to Dayton and Horizon Christian during the regular season last year, and the Warriors will have to win at least one vs. either to break through the stranglehold the Pirates and Hawks have had on the top of the WVL for years.

Changing directions and taking a peek at the girls standings in the WVL, there isn’t a lot of depth in the league, and the Willamina Bulldogs (9-2, 2-0) are again the team to beat. Willamina has won the league the last three seasons, and it already has a win vs. one of its main competitors in Amity (7-3, 1-1). Gervais is 8-2 and 1-0 in the WVL, and surprise team Dayton (3-10, 2-0) is also undefeated early in league play.

The Pirates have played mostly competitive basketball this season despite the 10 losses, but back-to-back games vs. Willamina and Gervais starting Monday will reveal whether or not Dayton is a real threat.

Sheridan is 3-5 on the season and 0-1 in the WVL.

In 4A, the Yamhill-Carlton boys basketball team is 2-6 after losing twice at the North Marion Holiday Classic before Christmas. The Tigers play at 7 p.m. tonight at Taft and finish its nonconference schedule with Junction City, Central and Gladstone. The early going has been a struggle for the Tigers. They are playing with an almost entirely new roster after losing 10 seniors.

The Yamhill-Carlton girls basketball team is also struggling with a 1-8 record. The Tigers lost their first six games before winning Dec. 27 vs. Stayton in the first game of the Stayton Holiday Classic. Yamhill-Carlton then lost its next two to Seaside and Brookings-Harbor. The Tigers begin their Cowapa League schedule Jan. 15 vs. Banks.

The Western Mennonite boys and girls basketball programs are enjoying early success, with the bulk of their conference schedules still in front of them. The Pioneers are 8-4 and 1-0 in the Tri-River Conference boys standings and ranked No. 5 by the OSAA RPI rankings.

The Pioneers have played a brutal nonconference schedule, including perennial 3A state contenders Blanchet Catholic, Dayton, Salem Academy and Valley Catholic. They lost by five points in overtime to Blanchet and by three points to the Crusaders. Western Mennonite beat Dayton 65-50 and also has wins vs. 5A Lebanon and Willamette.

The Pioneers girls basketball team is also doing well with a 10-1 record and a No. 5 ranking.

Western Mennonite recently lost at Oakland, but the Pioneers have wins vs. 3A opponents Willamina, Chemawa, Corbett, Dayton Salem Academy and Blanchet Catholic. It’s main competition in the Tri-River Conference will be Regis, which one the league last year.

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