Area boys basketball seasons getting underway
If the sound of basketballs hitting the hardwood gets your pulse racing, this is your time of year.
The local boys basketball season gets underway this week, when St. Croix Central hosts Mondovi on Thursday. The New Richmond and Somerset boys basketball seasons also get underway shortly.
Here are preview stories on the local boys teams to get you up to speed as their seasons begin.
The Tigers have undergone wall-to-wall renovations after nearly the entire varsity roster graduated last season.
A changeover that complete leads to questions, but it also leads to opportunities.
This will be a vastly younger team than the Tigers have fielded in several seasons. What the Tigers lack in experience, they make up for in depth. Tiger coach Rick Montreal said there are 15 players who could see time at the varsity level and most of those players are closely matched, talent-wise.
The coaches used all 15 players when the Tigers scrimmaged Barron and Cameron on Saturday and the results caused optimism among the coaches. The depth could become a treasured weapon for the team.
“We’re trying to translate that into playing harder,” Montreal said. “We might try more pressing, because we’ll be athletic. Minutes are really up for grabs.”
Montreal, in his eighth year as Tiger coach, said he wants to get back to setting the defensive standard in the Middle Border Conference.
“I’d like to think we can be in the top half of the league, if we can be in the top two in points allowed,” Montreal said.
The players expected to be leading contenders for playing time start with guards Connor O’Loughlin, Josh Geigle and Caleb Manecke and post player Noah Berger. Montreal said he expects that two seniors will be in the starting lineup when the Tigers open their season at Osceola next Tuesday. Those seniors will be O’Loughlin and Connor McCann.
The deep run into the WIAA football playoffs has pushed back the start of the Somerset basketball season. The first three Spartan games have been postponed, pushing their season opener back to Dec. 5, when they play at Osceola. Coach Brent Larson likes to give the football players a week off before they begin basketball practice, so the Spartans won’t be holding their first full practices until next week.
The interest in basketball is strong, with 52 boys signed up for the team. There were 27 in practices last week, with the football players not included. Larson said the practice time has been put to good use, concentrating on the players’ individual skills until the whole team begins practicing together.
The three postponed games have been rescheduled. The game scheduled for this Tuesday against St. Croix Central has been moved to Dec. 13. This Thursday’s scheduled game against Spooner will be played Feb. 17. And the game against Durand planned for next Tuesday will now be Feb. 6.
St. Croix Central
The Panthers were one of the youngest teams in the area a year ago. They are older and wiser this year and ready to show that they’re better.
Third-year Panther coach Zach Turpin said the players learned from the difficult circumstances they played through last season.
“They got thrown to the wolves last year,” Turpin said. “They’ve all improved quite a bit since last year.”
The Panthers scrimmaged Prescott and Grantsburg last week. They showed an ability to play strong defense, especially against Prescott, which is expected to be one of the leading teams in the Middle Border Conference. Defense was the focus of the first week of practice at Central and the Panthers hope to make defense a foundation for their success this season.
Turpin said the varsity lineup will be made up of a mixture of seniors, juniors and sophomores. He said the team’s offense is a work in progress, making effective defense even more important.
The Panthers start the season with a significant test. Central plays at home on Thursday, with Mondovi as the opponent. Mondovi is expected to be one of the upper level teams in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference, returning three players who’ve been in the varsity lineup since their freshman season.