Getting better every day

Freshman Rhianna Lane had a strong rebounding performance versus Newport on Dec. 14 pulling down 10 rebounds. (photo by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News)

Viking girls basketball steadily improving

Dec. 17, 2021 — When Aaron McNeill took the Siuslaw Viking girls basketball coaching job for the second time, he stated that he had one simple goal: improve every day.

“I believe it is extremely important to work hard and make improvements every day, with the ultimate goal of being a much better team at the end of the season than we were at the start,” said McNeill when he initially accepted the position in October. “If we continue to work hard and improve as individuals and a team, wins will come.”

Seven games into the 2021-22 season, McNeill’s Vikings are achieving their goals. After traveling to Newport on Dec. 3 and losing 52-2, the Vikings met the Cubs again on Dec. 14, this time on their home court. Though not the outcome the McNeill or his players would like, Siuslaw showed great improvement over the two teams’ first meeting, but still lost to Newport 45-14.

Senior Gracie Perkins led the Vikings with 8 points versus the Cubs. Freshman Rhianna Lane pulled down 10 rebounds.

On Dec. 10, Siuslaw traveled to Harrisburg to join Blanchet Catholic, Monroe and the host team for the Harrisburg Booster Club Tournament. 

To open the tournament, the Vikings met Monroe. Siuslaw had its highest scoring output of the season but still fell to the Dragons 56-19. Sophomore Jane Lacouture and freshman Jolee Erickson led the Viks with 4 points each. 

The next day, on Dec. 11, Siuslaw played Blanchet Catholic for the tournament’s third place trophy. The Viks continued to show steady improvement and had their closest game of the season so far. However, in the end the Cavaliers prevailed 34-16. Lacouture and fellow sophomore Mya Smith were the leading scorers for SHS with 5 points each. Lane also had 7 rebounds. 

Lacouture, who is co-captain of the Viking squad along with senior Haylee Cole, was named to the Harrisburg Booster Club All-Tournament Team.

With the simple goal of steady improvement, it appears the Vikings are headed in the right direction. McNeill realizes that lack of experience could be one of the biggest issues his team faces. 

“We all want to see progress in each game, which includes executing our offense more effectively with more consistent scoring throughout the game, improved defensive execution, reducing turnovers, better rebounding and improved free throw shooting,” said McNeill. “We want to play hard and be competitive. This group of young ladies is working hard to improve as a team as well as individually. I am pleased with the growth in our team over the first few weeks of the season. This group has the desire to get better and the willingness to put forth the effort to do so. The ultimate goal is to be a much better team at the end of the season than we were at the start.”

With only four players on the varsity roster having any prior high school basketball experience upperclassman will be leaned on greatly for leadership roles.

“I'm looking for my three seniors, Perkins, Cole and Denali Sleeper, as well as sophomore Lacouture, to lead by example,” said McNeill. “These are four players that have played in a high school game prior to this season.”

Along with strong leadership, McNeill also sees a team that wants to do the work to get better.

“So far the girls have a willingness to work hard to improve,” said McNeill. “They are eager to learn and receptive to being coached. They are making progress in many areas, and I look forward to this team continuing to work hard and growing together.”

The Vikings are on the court Friday, Dec. 17, versus Sutherlin at the Bulldog Invitational at Creswell High School. Depending on the outcome of that game they will play again Dec. 18 against a team and at a time to be announced.