The craziest piece of Jamie McCarty’s five-year run as Silverton boys hoops coach from 2017 through 2022 was that he was 69-1 in Mid-Willamette Conference games, a record of consistency that is almost blinding in its brilliance. And that one 2018-19 loss in OT at Corvallis was a strange beast, perhaps a column for another day.
McCarty stepped back from the program last year because of his school district administrative duties, but he is back in 2023-24 looking tanned, rested and ready.
The Foxes were 9-9 in league and 11-14 overall in 2022-23 under Tyler Allen, who now is at Central (and doing quite well with a 6-2 league record at Our Town’s presstime).
McCarty’s return has elevated the interest and intensity, sparked by an 11-point home win vs. defending champion Woodburn on Dec. 12. At presstime the No. 12 Foxes were 9-4 overall and 5-2 in league, in the middle of a 5-way fight for first involving No. 4 West Albany (7-1), No. 6 Woodburn (6-2), No. 16 Central (6-2) and No. 11 South Albany (5-2). The MWC gets four automatic berths in the Class 5A playoffs and with two statewide at-large bids available it’s possible (though still a bit early to be jabbering about it) that all five of those teams will wind up in the 16-team field.
This year’s Foxes are a blend of football players, soccer players and baseball players. They have a high motor, love to take charges, are almost never outworked and play joyful, suffocating defense. What they don’t have are the hoops assassins, like Cade Roth, David Gonzales and Neil Efimov who were on earlier McCarty teams. The defense would pound you to bits, Efimov would then drain five straight three-pointers and all of a sudden the Foxes led 32-7.
This year’s team won’t win like that, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. Tight end Brody Kuenzi is a beast in the low post, QB Sawyer Teeney and WR Elijah Howard are pestering you from the opening tip, Tyler Pooleon and Cade Wynn are all-around contributors, as is soccer player Elisha Short, and freshman Luke Horner looks primed for an excellent career.
Will the Foxes make it to the final eight at Linfield University, the sight of this year’s 5A tournament? I don’t see why not, making it only fair to note that McCarty won four 5A trophies in his earlier five-year run, with that fifth year shortened by COVID-19.
The girls squad, meanwhile, features a newness of its own. The Foxes won the 2016 Class 5A state title and were in the top 4 four other times under Tal Wold, who, like McCarty, left after the 2022-23 season because of scheduling challenges (Wold also is back, but now with the Stayton girls, another topic for a future column).
On for Wold came Alyssa Ogle, his top assistant. In year one she won the MWC title and took fourth at state. This year, featuring senior and PSU Viking to-be Kyleigh Brown as well as Olivia Boyd, a transfer post from Gervais who led the Cougs to a 2A title a year ago, Silverton at 7-0 is the last unbeaten team in MWC play and ranked No. 2 in Class 5A. The Foxes were in a four-way battle for league supremacy at Our Town’s presstime, with No. 3 South Albany (6-1), No. 6 Corvallis (6-1) and No. 8 Crescent Valley (6-2) chasing Silverton.
Boyd has been a solid contributor in the post, Brown has been off-the-charts (she set a school record of 37 points vs. South Albany) and veterans Grace Hayashida, Brooklynn Pfeifer, Justina Semerikov and Alli Mansur are playing key roles.
Silverton always seemed to advance both teams to Gill for the 5A tournament. Will the Foxes take two teams to Linfield this season? The jury is out, but I would advise Silverton fans, to start looking into finding the best places to park near the Wildcats gym.