It had been a frustrating and dry two-year spell with no wins for the McKay Lady Scots in Salem, Oregon. Playing in the Mountain Valley Conference this season, they have started out with a new head coach leading the program and a 2 -1 preseason record. They have defeated Reynolds, 46 - 38, lost to North Salem, 34 - 50, and defeated Jefferson, 55 - 43.
Most of the people that live in NE Salem can tell you that there are plenty of struggling families trying to survive in the community. A lot of students attending McKay High School encounter huge obstacles. For this reason, it can be difficult for coaches in any sport to get the needed support from families of the athletes -- the community is always willing to help as much as possible. The kids that find a way to overcome different types of barriers will find some success and help any team they play on.
This year, there are a few girls that have worked hard over the previous years, despite getting crushed by talented teams in tough 6A conferences. Two winless seasons, and yet they kept their heads up and never gave up on learning. They have found a way to improve and have made a positive-vibe impact.
I'm referring to three girls. Let's start with Leva Mike, who has been the leading scorer for the Lady Scots. Anita Lao, who transferred to McKay two years ago, is another ball handler and scorer. Diana Cruz Medina, who is a scorer, ball-handler, and aggressive attacking the basket will provide dividends for the Scots. These three ladies are a Terrorizing Lady Trio (TLT) that McKay must keep healthy throughout the season and out of foul trouble. These young ladies are also a class act on and off the court. Against the Jefferson Democrats of Portland, Leva hit four 3-pointers and finished with 21 points. Anita scored 15 points, and Diana balanced it out with 13 points. It's going to be exciting to watch the TLT as the season progresses. These three seniors will provide valuable leadership to their teammates.
Danica Cheremnov has been a highlight on rebounding while Justine Coburn recovers from shoulder surgery. With Justine back in the lineup, the team will have more depth. Araya Allen, who is one of the starters has been playing the post position, and has improved each game. The reserves this year have played a huge role in giving the starters a breather. Junior Cheyenne Allmond plays tough for her size -- she's a scrapper and dives for any loose ball. Jaime Molina-Wilkerson is another player that comes off the bench to help. Bailey Bryant has been playing with an injured knee, but has found a way to help the team.
The girls are playing with more confidence while adjusting to a new coaching style that Coach White brings to the basketball program. It's positive and the conditioning has paid off in their efforts during fourth quarter action. This is exciting for not only the team itself, but for the community as well. I've been impressed on the zone defense he's taught the girls -- huge plus.
This progress doesn't happen overnight, but with girls like Leva Mike, Diana Cruz, and Cheyenne Allmond setting an example of hard work during the summers, more girls will learn and start putting in some work in the off-season. That's what makes a team better when the basketball season comes around.
Last summer, Leva Mike would wake up early for 6:00am workouts with Coach Noza (boys' assistant coach) to lift weights, improve speed and quickness, and work on shooting. She played with an AAU team called, Or3gon Tripl3 (Oregon Triple). Leva attended open gyms at Chemeketa Community College to play against elite competition. She worked hard and now it's paying off big time for her and the Lady Scots.
Diana Cruz Medina wants to get better each game. During the summer she played for Oregon Triple along with Leva Mike. Diana gained a ton of experience through her efforts of finding a way to excel. She worked with Coach Rodney and John -- both coaches at North Salem. They helped her with form, attacking the basket, agility drills, and weights. Most importantly, Diana built confidence in shooting the basketball, which is playing a big factor at McKay this year.
Cheyenne Allmond spent hours on her shot last summer. She would always come in before workouts with Coach White and stay afterward. She worked on keeping her eyes up while driving to the hoop. Cheyenne took a trip to California to work with her aunt's trainer. Battling an ankle injury, she still found a way to improve her skills.
The hope is that the other girls start putting in some work during the summers to improve. Sometimes the community can help, but only if the girls want to get better, because improvement will be slower just working during the basketball season.
Coach Jim White walked into a girls' basketball program that was struggling and with their only home victory being three years ago. The only win two years ago was a forfeit. He has turned the program around in just three games. His valuable experience coaching many youth teams and then later at North Salem, West Salem, and Scio will be a huge asset to the girls' program. He has given McKay Girls the hope for a more successful program in the near future.
Jim has a family, his wife Kathi and two kids, Candice and Brad. His family has grown to two grandkids, Maddi and Jayden. McKay has given him a warm welcome and all the support.
Coach Jim White says, "So far I'm pleased with the work ethic of all the girls and that everyone is buying into what the coaches want them to do. We have a long way to go, but this group of kids is fun to be around! Our future looks very good, with keeping forty girls in the program and everyone getting better each day! The challenge so far has been to make sure we keep improving. Also we are big on school and working on bettering our grades while having perfect attendance. We have improved so much in that area -- it feels amazing. These are pretty awesome kids. They are starting to believe and trust each other. All the coaches are there for the kids."
In his first year at McKay, Jim's coaching staff has done a remarkable job. Assistant Frank Coburn has always gone above and beyond on coaching McKay youths throughout the years. He puts in many hours of his own time helping the girls basketball program year-round -- he should know that his hard work is recognized. The other assistants are Kelsey Davis, Kim Burk, and Sasha Davidson.
Best of luck to the McKay Lady Scots, come out and show your support!