Astoria will battle Banks for league title

A pressing Astoria defense will be led by Brooklynn Hankwitz, center, and Kelsey Fausett, right.

The “Conference of Champions” did not get a state title in girls basketball last season, but the Cowapa League did have the fourth- and fifth-place teams at the state tournament.

Both Banks and Valley Catholic will be back and contending for a state championship, while Astoria should be the third team in the mix for a league title this season.

The Lady Fishermen will be the only team in the Cowapa with three returning all-league players, and Astoria will be looking to improve on their 15th-place finish in last year’s final OSAA rankings.

To prepare themselves for league play, “we’ll have a tough preseason,” said Astoria coach Mike Jacobson, whose team will play in nothing but tournaments the entire month of December.

The Lady Fishermen open with the Madras tournament (Nov. 30-Dec. 1), followed by tournaments at Marshfield (Dec. 13-15), Seaside (Dec. 20-22) and Astoria’s own Dulcich tournament (Dec. 27-29).

“I like how our schedule is working out,” Jacobson said. “Everything is pretty much Thursday, Friday, Saturday.”

Astoria was 6-0 against the bottom three teams in the league standings last year, 0-4 against Banks and Valley Catholic.

One win against either the Braves or Valiants this year could vault the Lady Fishermen into a top three finish in the Cowapa.

The favorite?

“I’m thinking Banks, with Aspen (Slifka),” Jacobson said. “She’s one of the best players, not just at the 4A level, but overall.

“But we’ll be battling right there with them, or right below them, I would hope,” he said.

The OSAA’s preseason coaches poll had Banks ranked second in the state at the 4A level, behind Marshfield. Valley Catholic is ranked ninth, with Astoria picking up 20 votes for 11th place.

Astoria’s strength is “size and athleticism,” Jacobson said, “and hopefully we’ll be able to push the ball and run our press quite a bit more.”

With just one senior, the Lady Fishermen could also be the future power of Cowapa League girls basketball.

The lone senior is Lexxis Lyngstad, while the talented junior class includes returning all-league players Brooklynn Hankwitz and Hailey O’Brien, along with Taileigh Cole, Kajsa Jackson and Julia Norris.

Astoria will carry four sophomores on the varsity roster, three with varsity experience: Kelsey Fausett, Halle Helmersen and Sophie Long.

“We’re young, but they all have experience,” Jacobson said. “Brooklynn and Hailey will be three-year starters.”

Hankwitz and Jackson will be Astoria’s twin towers, while O’Brien will be running the point, along with Helmersen at times.

In addition, “Kelsey’s shooting and ball handling have really improved. They all have over the summer.”

ASTORIA GIRLS

Coach: Mike Jacobson, 5th year

2017-18: 15-10 (6-4 league)

Playoffs: Lost at Molalla in Play-in (29-53).

All-league loss: Sam Hemsley

All-league returners: Kelsey Fausett, So., Brooklynn Hankwitz, Jr., Hailey O’Brien, Jr.

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