Season preview: Lindbergh girls basketball

It’s not that the Lindbergh girls basketball team hasn’t been good recently – the Eagles have a 74-27 record over the past four years. It’s that the Eagles have been so close to being great.

When the final buzzer sounded in Lindbergh’s season-ending, 39-38 loss against Kelso in the district playoffs last season, the year had a familiar feel.

“That’s two years in a row we’ve missed going to state by one point,” said Lindbergh coach Jeff Stuart. “We shouldn’t have lost that game. We just didn’t execute at the end.”

The Eagles last went to the state tournament in 2006, and the two seasons since have brought one-point losses in the district tournament.

Lindbergh finished last season with an 18-6 overall record and a second-place finish in the Seamount (11-3).

With the Eagles on a mission, Stuart said the nucleus of this season’s team will be made of three players. A nightly triple-double threat, Marcissa McMillan. A well-rounded forward, Jordan Halingstad. And a talented freshman, Emily Graver.

The Eagles’ will revolve around McMillan, their 6-1 senior center. McMillan dominated much of last season, averaging 18.2 points, 14.0 rebounds and 6.3 blocks per game. She scored in double digits in every game but one, and collected double digit rebounds in every game but one. McMillan recorded three triple doubles last season. And her reach extended past the key, she led the team in steals with 53 and was second in assists, with 45.

The Eagles lost some contributors from last season. Kenisha Macklin averaged 6.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Macklin also gave the team another inside threat to keep some pressure off of McMillan. Mandi Jaramillo averaged 4.9 points per game.

Senior Saray Aylward will miss time and could possibly miss the season with a foot injury. Aylward’s absence leaves the Eagles with a hole at point guard. She was second on the team in scoring last season (7.2 points per game), led the team in assists (3.2) and was tied for the lead in steals (2.3).

“It hurts because she’s a good player,” Stuart said of the possible loss of Aylward. “She might be out for a while and we may not see her this season.”

Graver will likely start at point guard until the Eagles can develop another option, which would then allow Graver to move down and play the post. Even with a freshman starting at point guard, Stuart isn’t worried about inexperience.

“She’ll handle the position pretty well,” Stuart said. “We have a nucleus of those three (McMillan, Graver and Halingstad) and then whoever wants to step up will take the other spots.”

Halingstad averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game last season. Stuart expects her to increase her production as a focal point of the team.

Senior Casey Routos is currently holding down the other guard position, though Stuart said it is a battle between four or five players for that spot.

No matter who is on the floor, Stuart plans to have the Eagles on the run as much as possible.

“I’ve never been a walk up the court coach, never,” Stuart said. “I like the fast break. I like to press. We want to get the ball up and down the court.”

Stuart said if the Eagles are forced to slow down and set up an offense, McMillan will be the focal point.

There are a number of wildcards for the Eagles this season. But Aylward’s health and Graver’s development are the biggest two.

It’s clear that another season of almost isn’t enough for Stuart and the Eagles.

“My goal right now is to get back to state,” he said.