by Lindy Steeves
Fresh off the football and volleyball seasons, the Crane Mustangs sports teams are gearing up for their first winter games of the year. The men and women’s basketball teams have began practicing for their first tournament in Union, Dec. 6-7. Meanwhile, the Mustang wrestlers have began working in preparation for their season opener in a tournament in Burns Dec. 6.
The boys basketball team, under the direction of head coach Hector Martinez and assistant coach Matt Zander, has kicked off the season with a new set of goals.
“I would say our goals fall in the areas of sportsmanship. We are trying to learn how to be mentally tough, we are working on improving every day, and we want to share our passion for the game. So, toughness, improvement, and passion. We’re calling it ‘win the TIP’… When I say ‘win the TIP,’ it’s not the ball, it’s those facets of the game. Because if we win those facets, we will put ourselves in a position to win the outcome of the game,” Martinez said.
With a “good-sized” returning squad, Martinez is optimistic in the leadership of both upper and underclassmen.
“We have Tyler [Opie], who has been varsity for three or four years, so that’s exciting. But, we’ve got a really big sophomore group that shows a lot of promise. We’ve also got good leadership from Travis [Landon] as a returning junior and a lot of role players who are working really hard. So I think that really completes all the pieces you need for a good team,” Martinez said.
As far as games go, Martinez said that the team would first be concentrating on preseason, then the season, then post-season. As far as rivalries go, Martinez said, “We’re really trying to just look at preseason right now, and not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
But Martinez did have one team he was looking forward to competing with.
“I would have loved to play Nyssa this year, because that’s where I was before this, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet,” Martinez said with a laugh.
“But, we’ll be playing Burns this year, so that should be a good Harney County-focused game. I’m also excited to go to the Heppner tournament, because 2A basketball is pretty competitive, so we’d like to go and pull some upsets,” Martinez said.
He also mentioned that the reformation of the program even reaches into the grade school.
“I’m excited to have coach Zander as my assistant, and we’re excited that the middle school is aligning their program with ours. We’re going to try to start with the lower-level youth so that the program will be streamlined all the way through high school.”
Head coach Stub Travis, along with assistant coaches Darwin Dunten and Darcy Ugalde, have begun girls basketball practice in preparation for the season opener in Union.
“We have a bigger turnout than we’ve had in two years. We have 15 girls out, and that’s about double of what it was two years ago,” Travis said. “We have seven freshmen — so that’s a pretty good sized class — and three returning varsity starters, and another girl that played a lot of minutes last year. Unfortunately, we lost some kids that transferred, so we had to rethink what kind of a team we would be. We’ll have to change some things there, but I think we have a lot more depth than we’ve had for a couple of years.”
With the increased turnout and positive attitudes from the girls, Travis is optimistic about what the year will bring. He is hopeful that the depth of the team will help them in tough matchups.
“We have a group of girls who have really come in working hard, and they have great attitudes and high expectations for the year. We’ll have more post play this year, and we have good versatility from some players who can play inside and out. So I think with all that combined, we’ll have a successful season,” Travis said.
As always, the competition is stiff across the board. This year, the implementation of charter schools and promising young athletes has made a state playoff spot even harder to acquire.
“Adrian is always competitive, and they have a great program. So they’re a team you always hope to beat. But, I think the power has kind of swung to the other side of the league. The East side has Prairie City, and I expect them to be really tough this year. They’ve got a great point guard and strong inside play. Dayville girls have a lot of good speed and good young kids. They might even be the fastest team in the league. Then, Harper/Huntington became a charter school this year, so that will make them more competitive than they have been. Jordan Valley always finds a way to be strong. So it’ll be tough to make it out of district with one of three state playoff spots,” Travis said. “But, if our kids continue to work, I think we have a good chance to get to Baker this year.”
With all but one wrestler returning to the Mustang wrestling team, head coach David Doman is optimistic about the coming season.
“After a week of practice, I can definitely say that I’m excited about this season. For starters, I’ve got a great group of kids and staff,” Doman said.
Jerry Holloway, Jeremy Clark, and Raymond Thompson are assisting him in coaching, and new additions to the team have increased Mustang numbers and expectations.
“We’re really excited about Quinton [Nyman] joining the team. We think he’s going to end up being a huge contributor to the team, and he might have a chance to go to state. I think he’s that ‘something extra’ that we need to round out our team. We’re also excited about Austin [Roath]. He ended the football season on a good note, and he’s bringing that same intensity to the mat, so we think he’s going to be a great team leader,” Doman said. “We’ve just got a really exciting group of athletes. Our lightweights are looking really strong this year with Dustin [Ramge] and Andy [Lamborn]. Plus, we’ve got a strong group of seniors that we’re expecting good things out of.”
According to Doman, Crane was not the only school to graduate few wrestlers last year. The top four teams in the state are all bringing back the majority of their squads this year.
“In our conference, we don’t have a lot of rivals because a lot of the 1A teams don’t have wrestlers. But as far as state rivals go, there’s always Lowell. They’re a 1A powerhouse who didn’t really lose anyone to graduation last year. That will be a battle. Also, with Burns moving to 2A, that means we’ll be wrestling against them at state. So there’s the potential for a good rivalry there,” Doman said.