It’s a new day for Camas High School girls basketball. Like many of the players on the court, head coach Chuck Knight is finally finding his comfort zone.
“Some things you can only learn through experience. It just takes time,” said Knight, as he begins his second year. “I feel like I have a better grasp of all the different levels in our programs, and I know our strengths and weaknesses. The chemistry will be better this year and our roles will be more defined than last year.”
Knight and the Papermakers took their lumps last season, but they still finished second in league and at the district tournament. They never got to be the team that ended Prairie’s 10-year winning streak over Greater St. Helens League schools because of injuries.
“If there’s a silver lining in all that, it got these kids the experience,” Knight said. “When you lose your three seniors, it’s tough to challenge at a higher level. These girls got more opportunities to play, and they got to go to districts and bi-districts.
“We’re still learning what it takes to compete at a high level,” he added. “Today is the only thing we can control. Let’s have a great practice today.”
Senior captains Sydney Allen and Tatum Schroeder are embracing that new team philosophy, along with juniors Sierra Brown, Lauren Neff and Kendra Preuninger.
“What I love is being on a team and watching all of us going after the same goal,” Allen said. “It’s fun to watch everybody improve.”
“It feels like we’re the same team we were at the end of last season, only stronger,” Schroeder added. “You want to play hard for your seniors, and that’s what we did. Now that I’m a senior, I hope these girls are willing to do the same thing for us. We will work our way up the ladder.”
Camas squared off against Prairie and some tough Oregon teams during the summer. The Papermakers will also be playing in the Nike Interstate Shootout Dec. 27 to 30, in Lake Oswego, Ore.
“Our mindset is, we don’t want our kids to be afraid of anybody,” Knight said. “I just want to see us play every game to the level we are capable of. Don’t worry about who the opponent is. Just play our game.”
It’s no secret Prairie is favored to win league and districts again this season. Camas will battle Mountain View and Kelso for the other playoff spots. Columbia River, Hudson’s Bay and Fort Vancouver also look to be improved.
“In order to compete at a high level, you have to practice effectively every day. Part of it is going hard and being mentally in tune with your coaches and teammates,” Knight said. “You can’t control what the other teams are doing, but you can get better each day. At the end of the year, if you can maximize what you have, you can be happy with that.”