Court is now in session



Athletes in the girls basketball program are sporting the letters “NAT” this season, which they scrawl on the calves of their left legs with a permanent marker before every game. “NAT” stands for “Now Always Together” and is in memory of Natalie Hill, who died last October as a result of osteosarcoma cancer.

Hill was a member of the class of 2014, and she loved playing basketball until losing her leg to cancer and other complications from her illness ended competitive play for her. Hill opted for aggressive treatment, including having her leg where the cancer originated removed, in hope of a cure or prolonging her life to enjoy the things she loved.

Senior Tracee Scott, one of two captains on the varsity team, is one of Hill’s many friends who was by her side through her struggles and wants to honor her friend’s life.

“We write it [NAT] on our left calf because Natalie gave up her left leg to play ball,” Scott said. “We want everyone to know that we wear her every night we play and that we are playing for her.”

Additionally, at Hill’s celebration of life, Scott and fellow senior captain Abby Thrall, gave Hill’s parents, Shaunne and Jeff, her number 53 jersey.

Basketball players also wear t-shirts with the “NAT” logo on the back to remember Hill. The players have channeled that emotion into success as the varsity team is currently ranked 18th in Oregon.

The varsity team has only seven players this season, after losing Thrall to a season-ending knee injury early on.

“I tore my NCL, ACL and my meniscus,” Thrall said.

According to junior Katelyn Rossback, having Thrall out for the season is tough on the team.

“Before Abby got injured, we were 7-1 and one of the best teams,” Rossback said. “Now that we lost Abby, it’s like we’re starting from scratch.”

The players include seniors Bailey Garrett, Scott and Thrall, juniors Jade Chavez, Desiree Guirado, Rossback and Savannah Thurman. Junior Samantha Stephens and sophomores Carli Clarkson and Khalani Hoyer swing back and forth between the junior varsity and varsity teams.

The night before every home game the team has dinner together. Rossback said she enjoys being on the varsity team.

“Varsity is pretty close. Once we’re on the court we have that chemistry,” Rossback said.

Coach Bruce Bryant makes the girls practice six days a week for two hours to improve their skills.

“Our goal is to get ranked 16 or higher because that would mean there’s a good possibility we could get a home playoff game,” Bryant said. “My expectation for the season was to get to the state tournament and the state tournament is the top eight teams that are left after playoffs,” Bryant said.

Scott said she hopes the team will get that far in post season play and that Hill will be a part of it.

“We try to follow how she [Hill] played. We want to play the way she played always,” Scott said.

Scott said she often feels like Hill is on the court with the team.

“There are definitely instances where I feel like she’s [Hill] there on the court, at practice and at games,” Scott said. “It’s hard to say she’s not with us when she’s the reason that we play.”