By Rusty Rae • Of the News-Register • 

Linfield heads into league play seeking consistency

Rusty Rae/News-Register##
Linfield wing Dempsey Roggenbuck soars to the hoop for two points during the team’s matchup against Louisiana College. Roggenbuck scored a team-high 20 points in the Wildcat loss.
Rusty Rae/News-Register## Linfield wing Dempsey Roggenbuck soars to the hoop for two points during the team’s matchup against Louisiana College. Roggenbuck scored a team-high 20 points in the Wildcat loss.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, basketball teams are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

As Linfield’s men’s and women’s team open Northwest Conference (NWC) play this weekend, head coaches Shanan Rosenberg for the men and Casey Bunn-Wilson for the women, peak into their respective boxes of chocolate looking for their favorite pieces to combine for a pair of wins, Friday in Forest Grove against Pacific University and Saturday at home against cross-county rival George Fox University.

The men (6-3, 0-0) open league play in somewhatof a funk, losing their last three games, including Monday afternoon’s 85-74 defeat to Louisiana College, after which a frustrated Rosenberg grumbled, “We couldn’t defend our shadow tonight.”

Indeed, Rosenberg was so piqued by the play of his starters Monday that less than three minutes into the first half he substituted for all of them. It didn’t seem to make a difference as the team from Cajun Country went up 8-0 at the 15:50 mark of the first half.

The starters apparently received the message, returning to the court with gusto that was missing earlier; tying the game at 14 and advancing 22-17 before a second half swoon, in which Linfield’s ‘Cats played as if the tryptophan from their Christmas turkey dinner kicked in, generally sleepwalking through the 20 minutes.

Make no mistake, Rosenberg’s squad is talented and capable, and anything less than achieving one of the top-four slots in the NWC would be a disappointment.

Junior Dempsey Roggenbuck leads these ‘Cats, and even on a bad night (for him), he can drop in 20 points. Recently named NWC Player of the Week, Roggenbuck operates with a strong supporting cast, including senior big man Austin Hilton, plus former Grizzlies; senior forward Tanner Autencio and smooth-shooting sophomore Aaron Baune.

Friday’s contest will be against the sporadic Boxers (3-6, 0-0), who enter the conference schedule averaging over 100 points a game. The Saturday home opener sees the ‘Cats matched against George Fox (4-5, 0-0) and a team that went o-fer in December, losing five contests.

Linfield has made the NWC playoffs the last two years, but bounced in the first round playing on the road. Rosenberg would love for his squad to earn a home playoff game by taking one of the top two slots in the NWC.

That’s not out of the realm of possibility this year, but the ‘Cats key to success lies in realizing not only their level of talent, but to a certain extent, understanding they’re playing with targets on their back. Whereas in the past they’ve been able to battle from the underdog’s role, now they’re considered one of the teams to beat. Opposition teams bring that little extra to games, aiming to unseat one of the league favorites.

Linfield’s women’s hoop squad (6-3, 0-0) enters league play winners of their past two games, including a 58-40 whipping of Corban in which ‘Cat forward Kory Oleson scored her 1,000th point for Linfield.

Bunn-Wilson’s squad, a work in progress with numerous new faces, also features senior Molly Danielson, a first team All-NWC performer last year and a four-year starter.

The Danielson-Oleson twosome gives the ‘Cats a solid inside game, but this season the duo are supported by a host of others (nine new team members), including freshman starting point guard Paige LaFountain from Tigard, who Bunn-Wilson noted brings four-years at the highest level of high school play in Oregon.

However, for the coach, the key to Linfield’s success thus far has been a total team-first philosophy to which her players have subscribed.

“Molly and Kory give us a great scoring threat, however, their teammates do a great job of getting the ball to them, setting screens, playing defense, and the reason we’ve been successful is that we play team basketball and have a team-first mentality – and that above all else – the team’s first no matter what,” she said.

Even with Danielson and Oleson’s scoring prowess, Bunn-Wilson notes, “They are both total team-first players – which is huge for people of their caliber – with the numbers they put up – you’d never know it.”

While Bunn-Wilson and the Wildcats take a one-game-at-a-time focus, the NWC has multiple teams capable of winning it all. With the exception of Lewis & Clark, every team boasts a winning record through the non-conference season, with George Fox and Whitman leading the pack with 8-1 records.

The Boxers (6-3, 0-0), like Linfield, are on a two-game win streak while the Bruins (8-1, 0-0) are on a seven-game run.

Last season, Linfield dropped the Boxers in a pair of three-point victories, but against the experienced Bruin team lost three blow-out contests, including a 76-49 loss in the league playoffs.

Bunn-Wilson noted, “Our league will be really tough this year. I know it will be a fight every night – a battle whomever we are playing. We want to come out strong in our first two league games and hopefully the non-league games have prepared us for the conference schedule.”

Last year, the Linfield squad qualified for the league playoffs.

Bunn-Wilson adds, “Our expectation is to make it to the playoffs again this year. We understand it’s game-by-game, and we have to work for it, and no one is going to give us anything. All we can do is prepare and take it one game at a time.”


Web Design and Web Development by Buildable