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Local basketball teams off and running in the new season

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Toledo Junior Emily Barge (center) takes up a shot against a Morton/White Pass defender during a hard-fought match-up of the two teams on Saturday. MWP thwarted a valiant Toledo comeback in overtime, ending the game 46-44.

Six local basketball teams started seasons over the last couple of weeks to begin a long trip towards "March Madness."

Two of the six teams have the capability to see rarified air of the Spokane Coliseum or the Yakima Sundome, and a third has a lot of potential if the pieces fall into place. The Castle Rock boys and girls now compete in a much smaller Trico League while Toledo has dropped to the 2B Central where the competition is among smaller schools, but far more tenacious.

The Indian boys, currently ranked 6th in the state, ran into the defending state champions and currently top-ranked Morton White Pass on Saturday, and were welcomed rudely to the league with a 72-50 thumping.

Don't count them out, but this isn't the Trico anymore. In recent years, as many as four Central League teams have played among the final eight in the WIAA State Tournament in Spokane. With the power in this league, Toledo may not be first in its own league, but may make a run right to the Spokane Coliseum.

The Toledo Indian boys return an entire line-up plus a strong replacement for the one graduated senior. Key returners include Trico League all-stars Brent Wood and Grant McEwen under new Head Coach Grady Fallon. Fallon is no stranger to the Toledo system with a decade as assistant to long-time head coach Scott Merzoian.

The Indians' kryptonite would be a significant size disadvantage. Only 6'6" Donevin Merly and 6'2" Joe Wallace supply much height, but McEwen at 5'10" was the leading stat man in steals and rebounds during last year's season at the 1A level, which included a 6th place finish in the WIAA State Tournament in Yakima. Forrest Wallace, Riley Bowen, Connor Vermilyea and Isaiah Johnson will all make huge contributions during this season.

The Rocket boys are raising some eyebrows with significant early wins this season, like last week's defeat of Kalama. Sharpshooters Brock and Ty Johnson, the coaches' sons, contributed 45 points a game, while the inside game is being dominated by Mason Klingberg. The three of them combined for 45 points a game last year.

Newcomer Taite Kleine has already shown an impact with 15 points against the Chinooks. The Rockets may win the Trico and advance into the playoffs giving Castle Rock some basketball pride.

Another team them that has struggled since dropping form the 1A ranks to the Central 2B League is the Winlock Cardinals. Perhaps their best player is soccer star Adair Garibay who is cat-quick and a tenacious defender. But the Cards are turning a new leaf with some significant talent showing up among the underclassmen.

Senior Evan Mitchell supplies some wisdom in and around the paint, but the story for the Cardinals will be three up-and-coming freshmen (Dawson Hall, Nicholas Patching and Thomas Gifford) and sophomores Wyatt Dean and Zach Weinert. A fresh face to the program is Senior Stardog Delao, who has grabbed the attention of Coach Dennis Touscher with his progress.

On the girls' side, Toledo appears to be the best local team in the area. Don't let the early 1-3 start disappoint you. They took undefeated Morton/White Pass into overtime on their home floor this weekend. The Lady Indians return a veteran core of players including Casee and Chaselin Rice, who account for 20 points or more between the two of them on a regular basis. Senior Victora Tjemsland is a veteran floor general and Emily Barge has developed quite nicely into a presence in the paint. This year will also witness the emergence of Hailey Tauscher (daughter of Winlock Boys Coach Dennis Tauscher), who is beginning to score and rebound with the best the Central 2B has to offer.

The Castle Rock girls are in rebuilding mode and it is going to take a while for the producers to stand out in the Rocket red. Jessica Lair, Nakayla Ehrhorn, Emilee Janisch and Mattie Williquette.

Winlock is also in rebuilding mode after graduating six seniors last year. Sophomores Rianna Whitehead and Mika Hammond the leading producers thus far but contributions are also coming from Junior Sophia Valasco and Freshmen Maggie Howsden.

6"6' Donevin Merly grabs a rebound against Morton/White Pass on Saturday night. The top ranked MWP Timberwolves sent Toledo home with a 72-50 loss.

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