21 November 2013

Boys Basketball: A need to finish

Eli Rockett (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Last winter the Tigers finished with a 14-14 record in a season that included 10 games decided by 10 or fewer points.

With seven key contributors returning from that squad, veteran coach Shane Wyandt is looking for a few additional entries in the win column for 2013-14.

"We were a very competitive squad last season," Wyandt said, "but we struggled with consistency, especially in tight games. We must mature and be better in those situations. We do a lot of things extremely well but we must stay together in all situations to finish the way we want to."

Six of the seven veterans are seniors including post players Nick Varner and Eli Rockett, guard/forward Mac Bassett, forward Tyler VanWinkle and guards Johnny Dittman and Jordan DeCroock.

Rockett earned all-Missota Conference honorable mention as a junior; Varner made the all-Missota team as a sophomore.

Junior guard Zach Speikers has been in the varsity rotation since his freshman season. Senior forward Dallas Guyot and junior forward/guard Wyatt Ferm are also expected to battle for varsity floor time this winter.

Gone from the lineup is career 1000-point scorer and all-conference selection Darren Beenken but Wyandt intends to make up for his absence with a balanced scoring attack.

"We feel we can get points from everyone we play," he said.

Wyandt also likes what he has seen in early practices from his twin-post threat of Rockett and Varner as well as the overall length of his lineup.

Senior Mac Bassett (photo by Jim Lindquist)
"We have a lot of experience and should have improved guard play," Wyandt said. "But we need to play with consistency and make better decisions, especially down the stretch in close games. We also aren't real deep inside."

Wyandt said Shakopee will probably be the pre-season pick for the last Missota Conference championship but added he expected his team to be in the hunt in both the conference and section races.

"In the conference there are probably four other teams, including us, who could win it," he said. "We respect all of the teams in the conference but feel we will challenge at the top."

Junior guard Zach Speikers (photo by Jim Lindquist)
Lakeville North, paced by Xavier recruit J.P. Macura, is the odds-on favorite to win the section title with Rochester John Marshall also returning a veteran team.

"They are the favorites until someone knocks them off," Wyandt said, "and we feel we can be that team. We look forward to the opportunity."

Tharen Johnson returns as the Tiger junior varsity coach as does Brent Mahlstedt with the B-squad. Roland Bradley and Steve LeDuc share the ninth grade coaching duties.

Friday night's scheduled season opener with Owatonna has been postponed due to the Huskies playing in the Class 5A football championship next week.

The Tigers kick off their 2013-14 campaign next Tuesday with a non-conference road game at Hastings.