The Long Creek/Ukiah girls basketball team’s season has just begun, and at 4-0 on the season, they’re already outpacing last year’s record.
The schools are fielding varsity teams this year after two years of having only junior varsity teams.
This change has sparked excitement among the players.
“I like that we have an opportunity to go to state,” said team captain sophomore Dorotha Johnson. “We’re doing pretty good and working together.”
The coaches Amos Studtmann and TC Conner are also thrilled about the step up to varsity.
“They love basketball,” Studtmann said. “They’re excited to play varsity and want to show that they deserve a chance. They want to get out there and prove themselves.”
The Mountain Lions lost starter Faith Burnette and an exchange student to graduation last season.
This year there are 12 on the team: seniors Gladys Johnson and exchange students Karen Quintanilla and Jenny Lee, three juniors, five sophomores and one freshman.
Returning starters are Gladys Johnson, her sister Dorotha Johnson and sophomores Lucchese Douglas and Jenny Kim.
Studtmann said Gladys and Lucchese have been rebounding well, and Dorotha has been working on developing her shooting, dribbling and defense.
“(Dorotha) has a great attitude and is helpful teaching the younger players,” the coach said.
Junior Brooke Harrison is another starter who played her freshman year.
“Brooke has been getting a lot of defensive stops and turning them into offensive opportunities,” Studtmann said.
Gladys has a positive outlook on the season.
“It’s going pretty well, considering we’re 3-0 right now,” she said, before their last win.
With four wins this season, the team has already matched its win total from last season.
In the High Desert League, Long Creek/Ukiah will face Four Rivers, Jordan Valley, Dayville/Monument, Crane, Adrian, Harper, Burnt River, Prairie City and Huntington.
In early-season results, three of their league opponents are in the top 10 in state, including Jordan Valley, Crane and Dayville/Monument.
Studtmann said he expects Jordan Valley and Crane to be strong this year, and Adrian “likes to run a press,” he said.
He said sometimes the best players are freshmen.
“All we can hope for is that our work and preparation will be enough,” he said.
He added that his goal as a coach is always about growth.
He said he’s looking forward to seeing his team hone their skills, work hard and “develop as people through the wins and losses and any injuries that may happen through the season.”
“I like to see kids grow,” he said.
Long Creek/Ukiah girls schedule
Dec. 21-22: @ Helix Tournament, 2 p.m., TBD
Jan. 3: vs. Crane in Long Creek, 5 p.m.
Jan. 4: vs. Dayville/Monument in Long Creek, 5 p.m.
Jan. 5: @ Prairie City, 2 p.m.
Jan. 11: @ Burnt River, 5 p.m.
Jan. 12: @ Crane, 2 p.m.
Jan. 18: vs. Jordan Valley in Ukiah, 5 p.m.
Jan. 19: vs. Huntington in Ukiah, 2 p.m.
Jan. 22: @ Pilot Rock, 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 25: @ Harper, 6 p.m. MT
Jan. 26: vs. Four Rivers in Ukiah, 2 p.m.
Jan. 29: vs. Pilot Rock in Ukiah, 4:30 p.m.
Feb. 1: @ Adrian, 5 p.m. MT
Feb. 2: vs. Burnt River in Long Creek, 2 p.m.
Feb. 8: vs. Prairie City in Long Creek, 6 p.m.
Feb. 9: @ Dayville/Monument in Monument, 2 p.m.
Feb. 14: High Desert District Tournament in John Day, TBD