With the opening of its brand new campus complete with a pristine gymnasium, the Mountain View boys basketball team has a blank slate to start from this year.
Mountain View closed its old gym, known as the Thunderdome, last February by losing a winner-to-regionals game against Evergreen, its 3A Greater St. Helens League rival, to end the Thunder’s season in the 3A bi-district tournament.
Opening night of the 2022-23 season on Tuesday pitted Mountain View and Evergreen against each other in a rematch, and the Thunder, playing game one on their new hardwood, made a strong first impression with a 74-60 win.
“We had a little bitter taste in our mouth from last year,” Mountain View senior Isaiah Vargas said, “so we had to get it back with this win.”
Mountain View had balanced scoring from seniors Ledarius Washington (19 points), Noah Morishige (15), Vargas (13) and Jacob Martin (eight), while hitting 11 3-pointers and turning a five-point halftime lead into a 20-point advantage late in the third quarter.
“We’ve been playing (together) for a while, so we already know how we work, how we operate, where we like to shoot, our spots, everything,” Vargas said.
In fact, eight of Mountain View’s 12 players are returners. Martin, Vargas and Michael Tauscher, who’s out for his senior season due to injury, have a combined 10 seasons of varsity basketball between them. Their experience and wisdom gives the Thunder leadership a level they haven’t had in recent years.
“It’s a veteran group (with) a lot of experience,” Mountain View coach J.C. Alexander said. “Our leaders have been with me and they’ve been through the struggles, they’ve been through the ups and downs. The excitement built around the new school, the team, the seniors, the veterans, the experience — it’s huge.
“Our practices are different. They’re more intense, they’re more controlled, they’re not as long. Definitely, kids are locked in and understand the expectations.”
Evergreen and Mountain View ordinarily wouldn’t play each other on opening night, let alone the first month of the season until the eight-game 3A GSHL slate gets underway in January. This season, however, those two, along with fellow 3A GSHL schools Kelso, Heritage and Prairie have multiple league contests in the opening weeks of the season mixed in with non-league games.
Mountain View has games against Prairie and Kelso in December, while Evergreen plays Heritage on Dec. 9 before returning to 3A GSHL play on Jan. 3 against Prairie.
“Especially opening the school, it’s nice to catch that rivalry, that big game (against Evergreen),” Alexander said. “I don’t think many of us in the league were very excited about opening up with league games this early, but with that said, it is what it is and we have to lace ‘em up and play the game. It was nice that we could open up against Evergreen and get that bitter taste out of our mouth.”
The Plainsmen were led by freshman Dez Daniel’s 24-point outing and 10 points from 6-foot-6 junior forward Fox Crader, also a highly-touted offensive lineman who announced his commitment to Oregon football on Nov. 21.
MOUNTAIN VIEW 74, EVERGREEN 60
EVERGREEN — Landon Rayner 6, Game Maldonado 0, Jayce Gallant 1, Dez Daniel 24, Damarien Walden 2, Quincy Caston 6, Arthur Ban 0, Lenny Fierro 7, Tae Lee 4, Fox Crader 10. Totals 21 (4) 14-23 60.
MOUNTAIN VIEW — Jacob Martin 8, Isaiah Vargas 13, Tyler Aimone 2, Peter Nguyen 6, Noah Morishige 15, Daniel Dolev 0, Madden Wilson 5, Cooper White 2, Tage Ghuman 2, Jack Johnson 0, Tre Hughes-Farmer 2, Ledarius Washington 19. Totals 29 (11) 5-11 74.
Evergreen 11 20 5 24—60
Mtn.View 17 19 20 18—74