Vale’s Emersyn Johnson (No. 13) takes a jump shot during a game last year. Johnson is one of a core group of key returning starters that will hit the hardwood for the Vikings for the 2019-2020 hoop season. (The Enterprise/File)

VALE – Jason Johnson, the Vale Viking girls varsity basketball coach, said he will look to a solid group of returning starters to help the Vikings find success in the current hoop season.

“We have a really good core and we are excited,” said Johnson.

Vale (1-0) got off to a good start this season and clinched a 53-25 non-league victory over Homedale Friday.

Back for the Lady Viks this season will be senior starter Rachel Wolfe, juniors Matyson Siddoway – a first team, all-league selection last season - and Emersyn Johnson. Senior Sierra Cleaver, who started off and on last season, will also be key for Vale said Johnson.

Johnson said he is also looking for good things from junior Ashley Jacobs who has mostly junior varsity experience. 

“I was just about to move her into quite a bit of varsity time (last year) and then she dislocated her ankle,” said Johnson.

The Viks open the season with two impact players last year who have graduated - guard Gracee Jacobs and forward Kyla Wright. 

Johnson said he wasn’t too concerned.

“It seems like you lose someone important and then someone steps up to take their place,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the Viks “should be able to score some points.”

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“And I know we will be able to defend well. I really feel like we have a good crop coming back,” said Johnson.

Johnson said in terms of technique, his team is moving forward fast.

“I don’t know if our conditioning is very good yet, but as far as knowledge of our system, we are ahead of schedule,” said Johnson.

The Lady Viks ended the 2018-2019 season 7-3, good enough for second in the Eastern Oregon League and then made it into the state basketball tournament before losing games to Blanchet Catholic and Warrenton.

“But we were very competitive in both games,” said Johnson.

Johnson said much like last season, Burns will be the team to beat in the league. 

“They return most of their team,” said Johnson.

The Hilanders ended last season with a 10-0 league mark and a No. 1-ranking by the Oregon School Activities Association and made it deep into state tournament play. Burns ended the tournament in fifth place. 

“Nyssa and Irrigon will be competitive. They will put good teams out there,” said Johnson.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377. 

Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: [email protected] or 541-473-3377

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