By David Bashore
Herald sports reporter
Last year's winless season for the Irrigon girls basketball team prompted a change in focus for the upcoming season, and with it a newfound intensity and resolve.
Unable to break out last season, the Lady Knights have shifted to more of a defense-oriented approach to playing the game in hopes that it will cut down on the the first-half blowouts they suffered time and again in the last campaign.
Practices carry a stark emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, where Irrigon hopes to make the most drastic improvement converting in transition off of rebounds and steals.
"If you look at last season, we probably left close to 30 points on the floor out of defense," Lady Knights head coach Ray Davis said. "If we get 20 of those 30 points last season, we're in every game we play and we probably cause a few upsets."
Armed with a pair of assistants this season, Davis is confident that the program, currently 27 strong, is headed in the right direction, and sooner rather than later.
"The girls are having fun so far, and they're really excited about having the coaches instruct them," Davis said.
"I can tell we are much improved over the summer, and I think we can surprise some people this season."
The usual suspects from last season, Vanessa Gutierrez, Mirna Angulo and Tia Johnson are all back and are backed with a deeper, more athletic supporting cast this time around as opposed to last season.
Height and athleticism in the blocks, headlined by Jenny Campos, will add another facet to the growing Knight attack, and should provide them with a more well-rounded look on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Another season of team-wide experience under the belt is sure to help bolster the Knights' chances of having a vastly more successful season this time around, but the effort and intensity are going to be a key to success for them as they go about in search of wins by the handful.
"I'm really excited about how hard the girls are working," Davis said. "We've got some numbers and some athletes, and they're hungry. They hate losing, so that's got them more pumped to get some wins this year."
Irrigon starts off with a home game against Arlington on Dec. 1, at approximately 6 p.m.