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Day: December 2, 2014

Boys hoops standing tall headed into first week

Wyatt Grine makes a move around coach Cameron McCormick. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Wyatt Grine makes a move around coach Cameron McCormick. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Last year, the McNary High School boys varsity basketball team turned a corner. Even though the team endured its fair share of strife in the win-loss column, it was always fun to watch.

While it has Head Coach Ryan Kirch’s hopes high for the coming season, he said it’s going to require a different type of commitment from the Celtics.

“We’ve talked a lot about winning league titles and that, but the big step is how committed are we to improving our fundamentals. If we want to play the big teams in the state, we have to be committed to doing all the little things right to make it happen,” he said.

McNary finished third in the Central Valley Conference last season, but the lay of the land is quite a bit different this time around with three teams – Forest Grove, McMinnville and West Albany high schools – added to the new Greater Valley Conference.

“The depth of talent in the league gets stronger and all three teams have had some success and that will push everyone to do better,” Kirch said. “We also play our first league game before the winter break which means we have to maximize our time in practice.”

Last season, McMinnville made it to the second round of the playoffs before being ousted, Forest Grove lost in the first round. West Albany split the league title in the 5A Mid-Willamette Conference before ending the season with a third place finish in the state tournament.

While the external pressure is rising, it’s also on the upswing within the Celtic program. McNary has a number of underclassmen with great height and abilities, but the big “get” for the program was luring 6-foot-6 Harry Cavell back to the Keizer team after playing for West Salem High School.

“The competitiveness within the program is intense and we’ve got some real versatile players, which allows us as a coaching staff to do different things,” Kirch said.

Returning seniors include Devon Dunagan, Tregg Peterson, Connor Goff, Drew McHugh and Cole Thomas and Kirch has been impressed with the leadership coming from all five young men.

In early practices, Peterson said the team has focused on explosive play.

“It helps a lot on defense for lots of reasons, but on offense it will mean we can get most of our points in transitions without having to run plays,” he said.

Many of the returners also have the advantage of having played together in a summer league that allowed them to hit the court without the lag that comes with getting to know each other.

“I’ve been playing with these same people for a long time and I feel like we’re all fully-developed now. It’s our chance to bring it all together,” Dunagan said.

For the first time in a while, the Celts will field a team with the majority of starters rising above the 6-foot mark in terms of height, but Dunagan said the diversity of talent is also a big advantage.

“We’re not the tallest team yet, but we have a lot of good shooters, several players who can post up and there’s a lot of ball security,” Dunagan said.

Peterson was anticipating the first games of the season as a chance to see if the rubber meets the road.

“While we have played together, there’s nothing like a big varsity game to help you build trust and chemistry,” Peterson said.

On the court success is one thing, but the boys varsity team finished first in 6A team GPA ratings last year as well. Kirch said holding onto that legacy is just as important as wins on the court.

The team’s first home stand will be Saturday, Dec. 6, at McNary. Game time is 4 p.m.

New mayor, councilors give visions at Gubser meeting

Councilors-elect Amy Ripp (left) and Roland Herrera (center), shown during a Keizer Chamber of Commerce candidates forum in September, spoke at the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association meeting on Nov. 20, along with mayor-elect Cathy Clark. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)
Councilors-elect Amy Ripp (left) and Roland Herrera (center), shown during a Keizer Chamber of Commerce candidates forum in September, spoke at the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association meeting on Nov. 20, along with mayor-elect Cathy Clark. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

New Mayor Cathy Clark and members of the Keizer City Council will be setting goals early in the new year.

A preview of the process was given during the Nov. 20 Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association (GGNA) meeting.

“What an honor,” Clark said of being the next mayor. “It’s such an opportunity to work with a team of neighbors who are willing to put in the time it takes to help our community. Now we have a chance to take a deeper look at where we’ll be the next 10 to 20 years. We can engage in a meaningful process of what community development will look like, for ourselves and, even more, for the generations behind us.”

Councilors-elect Roland Herrera (currently a GGNA board member) and Amy Ripp also shared their visions for the future.

“I’ve always felt there’s an untapped pool of volunteers,” said Herrera, who formerly worked for the city for 19 years. “It’s always the same people. I was told I could be the one to bring in the young people. There’s a group of people that’s never been engaged. I want to get the young people engaged in city government.”

Ripp, who grew up in Keizer and returned in 1997 to raise her sons here, noted she owns two small businesses.

“I felt small businesses need a voice at the city,” she said. “Maybe I could be that voice and that connection. There’s a lot of really great things happening in Keizer. I’m excited to work with such an experienced council.”

John Morgan, Keizer’s first director of Community Development who helped lead the discussion, asked what projects or programs each would like to be on the council list of goals.

Clark noted she will be having outgoing and incoming councilors meet to talk about what’s been accomplished and what should be accomplished in the future. She also tipped her cap to one of Herrera’s goals.

“Roland hit a big one with the volunteer base and how to better engage the youth,” Clark said. “We have a youth liaison on council and one on Parks Board. That’s great, but I want more. I want more feedback from them. Tigard-Tualatin has an amazing council program with middle schoolers and high schoolers. Those students are doing meaningful work.”

Clark also noted she’s chair of the new Keizer Economic Development Commission.

“When money becomes available, how do we invest it?” she asked rhetorically. “I want a really solid base so I can go to you and say this is how we decided to spend the money and this is why.”

Ripp wants to see more connection between the council and the community.

“There has been a gap in communication from the city to the community level,” Ripp said. “I’d like to see a different direction, where we can have town hall meetings to see what people think and want. People have great ideas, but they’re not sharing them. That will be one of our keys. We have to be able to bring everyone to the table and bring opinions out.”

Ripp also wants to see more training for police officers and fire district crews.

“We have in Keizer, as we grow, the need for more mental help and domestic violence help,” she said. “I want to continue to see resources for those needs in law enforcement. We have to support that as a community.”

Herrera noted he joined the Parks Board for a particular reason.

“I come from a public works background,” Herrera said. “I saw a lot of well-intentioned ideas, but we were not using input from the people who know and use the parks. Every park has the park nerd; for my park, I’m that guy. I wondered why the Parks Board doesn’t have a partnership like that. I couldn’t even get the city to let me mow the park for free. They made it almost impossible to be involved.”

Herrera also wants to see the Latino population in Keizer tapped into.

“Twenty percent of our community is being unused,” he said. “I want to tap into that part of the community. I want Keizer to be inclusive. I hate it when people badmouth our city. What can we do to connect them? I want to pull them in to engage them. I’ve been talking about the engaging thing for years. Social media is what the young people use, but at the city we don’t use it right. Social media should be used to engage more people. I want to reach out to segments that don’t feel included.”

The new councilors will be sworn in during the Jan. 5 council meeting. Brandon Smith, the former councilor who was supposed to be at the GGNA meeting, is rejoining the council.

Mayor Lore Christopher and councilors Joe Egli and Jim Taylor will be stepping down from council.