Lebanon girls, ELCA boys early hoops favorites

Winter sports are well under way in Lebanon, and basketballs are bounding the right way at two schools as league seasons start.
East Linn’s boys (5-1) were ranked No. 1 in the 2A Division prior to their opening league Dec. 20 against Illinois Valley, after Lebanon Local went to press.
Lebanon High School’s girls were also off to a good start, with four straight wins, including a league-opening victory over Central on Dec. 13. They resume their league schedule on Jan. 2 at Silverton. As this issue went to press, the Warriors were ranked No. 2 in the 5A Division.
“That was a very good win against Central,” Athletic Director Kraig Hoene said. “Central’s a good team. Even with that loss they are ranked fourth in the state power rankings, so that tells you they’re definitely one of the teams we expect to be up there at the end of the season.”
Senior Kaley Hargis iced a pair of free throws, after Central evened the score in the final seconds, to win it 46-44 for Lebanon.
At the end of the third week of the season, four Mid-Willamette Conference teams – the others being Crescent Valley (No. 3) and Corvallis (No. 5) were ranked in the top five of the 5A Division behind No. 1 Canby.
“It’s not unusual for (Lebanon Coach) Mardy (Benedict) to have a good, competitive team, and this is one of them,” Hoene said, noting that the Warriors’ roster includes eight seniors.
They’ll get a chance to try their stuff against some new competition as the Warriors departed Dec. 20 for a Christmas tournament in Florida before resuming MWC play Jan. 2 at Silverton.
East Linn’s girls were 2-4 overall going into their first league game on Dec. 20, hosting Illinois Valley.
As Lebanon Local went to press, Lebanon’s boys were still looking for a win going into a road trip to Eagle Point.
But their three early losses included one of the best teams in the 4A Division, Cascade, and Thurston, which is never an easy win.
Complicating things for the Warriors was the loss of senior point guard Porter Barnes to an injury against Thurston in their opener, Hoene noted.
“The boys have played a pretty solid schedule and then when you play Thurston and Central without your point guard, that is going to cause issues.
“We don’t have Henry Pointer any more, so we need the kids to step up and start scoring.”
On the mats, Lebanon’s wrestlers hosted their annual Weisbrodt Invitational to open the season and will host the 19-team Burton 5 Enterprises Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 13.
Senior Landon Carver, who was district champion last year at 113 pounds, is back to lead this year’s team, which is on the rebound from hits the Warriors took from COVID.
“Last year was a little bit of a down year,” he said. “
Also returning are senior Jack Shanks and sophomores Isaac Jordan and Mason Kisling, all of whom qualified for state last year.
“I think we’re getting back in that spot where (Coach Michael Cox) expects Lebanon to be,” Hoene said. “He has some good young freshmen in the program. He’s getting things back where he likes them.”
Lebanon has 65 wrestlers, including six girls, listed as participants.
In the Aquatic Center, Coach Lorlee Engler’s swimmers aren’t scheduled to accelerate into their season until after Christmas, Hoene said, but the good news is they have a sizable roster, with 23 girls and 13 boys.
“COVID hit swimming hard,” Hoene said. “Their numbers are back up.”