By CHRIS COLLINS
Of the Baker City Herald
A group of North Powder girls who have grown up playing and honing their athletic abilities together plan to enjoy themselves as they come to the end of their high school basketball careers during post-season play.
The Powder Valley girls displayed the teamwork and skill that earned them the Old Oregon League championship Thursday night as they defeated Mitchell 71-22 in first-round play of the District 4-1A tournament at Baker High School.
Were excited to be in this position and feel we can take the championship, said senior Ashley Wisdom after a Thursday night practice at the Powder Valley gym.
They take on Crane at 7 oclock tonight and hope to get another chance at Cove in the championship game. Cove defeated the Badgers 53 to 28 in semi-final play at last years tournament. Powder Valley has defeated Cove twice during regular season play this year.
That was a big upset last year, said senior Cali Taylor, Ashleys cousin. Were hoping to show everybody it was a fluke.
Family ties and friendship are keys to the teams success.
We all like each other, says senior Amanda Bingham. Nobody cares who gets the glory as long as we do good as a team.
None of us are that selfish, echoes Cali.
Ashley and Cali have been playing basketball together since they were 5 or 6. Ashley is the daughter of Mike and Jane Wisdom. Calis parents are Dana and Tim Taylor. Tim is Janes brother.
Amanda has been playing with the girls since they were all about 7.
Thats when the three started attending a basketball clinic offered by Carla Taylor at North Powder. Carla, a 1979 Powder Valley High School graduate, is Cali and Ashleys aunt. Taylor, who is well-known in Baker and Union counties as a champion high school athlete, is entering her 13th year as head womens basketball coach at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.
Other seniors on the team are Jayme Simonis, Amber Harrison, Lacey Kasper and Amie Russell. All but Kasper played YMCA basketball together beginning as fourth-graders with Ashleys mom, Jane, as coach. Another senior, Samantha Wendt, was injured playing summer league basketball and was sidelined this year.
Jane Wisdom is the girls volleyball coach in the fall and her team includes many of the same players.
She and her husband grew up just across the street from each other in North Powder and have their own fond memories of high school sports.
When Mike Wisdom started a teaching career in 1996, the family moved to Montana and then to Long Creek in 1997-98. He is in his fourth year of teaching at Echo where he also is the football coach and athletic director. Wisdom spends the week in Echo and returns home on the weekends.
Mike graduated from Powder Valley High School in 1975 and Jane is a 1983 graduate of the school. Although it requires a weekend commute for Mike, the couple say its worth it to allow their children to return to their hometown and their school.
In addition to Ashley, they have a 19-year-old son, Hallie, a recent Powder Valley graduate; and a 15-year-old daughter, Lacey, who plays on the junior varsity team.
It means a lot to Jane and I that they graduate here, Mike said.
Ashley especially missed her hometown when the family moved away.
It was important to us to get Ashley back with her friends and teammates at North Powder, Mike said. Of the three, she was the one who really missed the connection.
And it was obvious, even as fourth-graders, that this group of girls might be something special, according to the Wisdoms.
Athletes in training
Jane talks with pride about the growth she has seen in the girls over the years.
After volleyball season, she turns them over to Allen Bingham, who is in his fifth year as head girls basketball coach. He was the assistant boys basketball coach before that and coached his sons, Seth and Eli, both Powder Valley graduates.
Bingham said he took over the girls team to provide continuity for a program that was seeing turnover in the coaching staff nearly every year. In addition to his daughter, Amanda, Bingham also has coached daughter, Hillary, who graduated last year. His youngest, Haile, is an eighth-grader. He hopes to continue coaching until she is through high school.
When you are from a small town its hard to have coaches for all sports, he said. Parents need to step up and help out.
Bingham brought his family to Northeastern Oregon from Salt Lake City in 1978 when he joined his brother, Allen, in his accounting practice.
Sophomore starter Joelle Bain also has a coaching connection. Her father, Ken, is the high school wrestling coach. Her mother, Kristy, drives school bus.
Whats fun with this team is theyre so deep, Kristy said while watching Thursdays practice after completing her bus route. He (Coach Bingham) does quite a bit of subbing and theyre still strong, and thats fun.
The Wisdoms and Bingham have enjoyed coaching their children and believe that it has been a good experience for their families.
Ashley and Amanda agree, but admit that they have, at times, felt their parent-coaches expect more from them while others seem to think they are getting special treatment.
Assistant coach Molly Smith can empathize with the players. Her father, Chuck Peterson, also was her basketball coach at Pine-Eagle High School at Halfway.
Alan Stanfield is another assistant coach for the Powder Valley team.
Bingham hopes the thousands of practice shots, the repetition of drills and the enjoyment of the game pay off for his team this year as he looks for his first trip to the state tournament.
Weve got high expectations, he said. Its a good group of girls. They not only are good ballplayers, theyre good kids and theyre good friends. They have been together for a long time and they enjoy playing together. It makes it fun for a coach.