Battle begins for RRC title
WORTHINGTON -- As area basketball teams roll into the 2009 portion of the basketball season, all the Red Rock Conference teams have started their seasons.
Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Southwest Star Concept, Ellsworth and Adrian are each 2-0 in the conference this season and are looking to remain atop the standings.
However, in the early going, each team still has a shot at the title before playoffs roll around.
Here is a look at the Red Rock Conference teams, along with Tracy-Milroy-Balaton from the Camden Conference.
With Cory Van Briesen taking the helm of Adrian this season, the Dragons are looking to improve on last year's 16-9 season with a run at the conference title this season.
Three players have stepped up to lead an experienced Dragon team in the early going of the year. Danny Parsley, Brian Tjepkes and Nate Reyne have all gotten off to a good start.
Along with Parsley, Tjepkes and Reyne, Jesse Brake and Adam Diekmann have seen time in the starting lineup.
With the ability to go to his bench, Van Briesen has used Justin Weidert, Jordan Kontz, Brett Springman and Brendon Kopplow -- each of whom has played quality minutes.
After a loss to Worthington to open the season, the Dragons have responded by winning three straight games, including a pair of conference contests against Fulda and Hills-Beaver Creek.
Coming up after the break will be another critical game, when Adrian travels to Ellsworth Jan. 6.
Edgerton Flying Dutchmen
Returning senior starters Pat Kleinjan and Marty VanPeursem will look to lead the Edgerton team this season.
Along with Kleinjan and VanPeursem, fellow seniors Alex Elgersma and Ethan Blom will also look to play quality minutes for head coach Doug Van Kley.
Juniors Chace Hulstein and Alex Heard return as starters, and will join Kleinjan and VanPeursem as leaders on Edgerton's team, which is off to an 0-3 start. Despite an 0-2 record in the conference, the losses have been by a combined eight points.
Codi Gunnink, Alex Van't Hof, Tyler Hulstein and Josh Steffl, all juniors, will provide quality depth this season.
With a deep lineup, Van Kley is looking for a more up-tempo scheme this season.
"We lost a lot of our size from past years, so we will need to try to use our defense to create turnovers to help us generate offense," Van Kley said.
Edgerton will host Luverne Jan. 5 in its next game.
As the defending state champions, new head coach Tyler Morris has high expectations for this season.
With the state's all-time leading scorer, Cody Schilling, graduating, the Panthers will have to look to a new group of athletes to lead this year's team.
Heading the list of returners is 6-8 junior center Trevor Gruis.
Along with Gruis, seniors Adam Van Der Stoep, Tom Nolte, B.J. Kruse, Derek Drenth, and Kenneth DeBoer will look to compete for playing time this year.
Juniors Dustin Walters, Matt Buntjer and Tyler Chapa will vie for playing time with freshmen Dalton Huisman and Casey Schilling.
Ellsworth is off to a 3-0 start, including key conference victories against Southwest Christian and Hills-Beaver Creek. The Panthers will face Pipestone Area at Southwest Minnesota State University Monday.
Starting the season 1-2, the Fulda Raiders are looking to continue to improve after the Christmas break.
Junior Devin Kuehne has been a major contributor for the Raiders in the early going this season, while seniors Tyler Goedtke and Aaron Leinen have joined junior Nate Fremstad and freshman Max Dibble in the starting lineup.
Seniors Ben Gehl, Alex Hein, Sam Olsem and Kyle Jans have also seen significant playing time for the Raiders.
Fulda has lost to Adrian and Worthington so far this season, while earning a 62-56 victory at Edgerton Dec. 18.
Up next for the Raiders will be the Windom Holiday Tournament before facing Murray County Central in a conference contest Jan. 3.
Returning 11 letterwinners this season, Hills-Beaver Creek has a plethora of experience returning for this year's campaign.
Leading the list of returners is Halden Van Wyhe. A senior who averaged 19 points and four rebounds per game last season, Van Wyhe will become a four-year starter for head coach Steve Wiertzema.
Along with Van Wyhe, senior Terence Reid (eight points, five rebounds), juniors Andrew Scholten (16 points) and Colton Bass, along with sophomore Karic Wiertzema, will all look to lead the Patriots this year.
Seniors Joel Van Batavia, Dustin Verhey and Tyler Larson, along with junior Caleb Ellingson will all look to contribute quality minutes, allowing depth to be a strength.
So far this season, the Patriots are off to an 0-2 start in the conference, with losses to Adrian and Ellsworth to open the season.
H-BC will travel to Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Jan. 5.
Losing 10 players to graduation after last season, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin will look to a revamped roster this season.
Doug DeFrance, Steven Herrig and Isaac Hildebrandt are the returning letterwinners for the Wolverines this season.
Along with the three returners, Cody Adrian, Kyle Fast, Tyler Hamilton and Beau Herrig will also look to figure in for ML/B-O.
DeFrance is one of two seniors on the squad, along with James Sawatzky. Juniors Trey Hopwood, Hildebrandt, Fast, Herrig, Hamilton, Adrian and Wade Meyer are also looking for playing time for head coach Shawn Naas.
As the season progresses, Naas is looking for improvement.
"We hope to become competitive in the Red Rock Conference and our new sub-section 2A," Naas said. "This year is all about rebuilding and playing as a team. We hope to improve as the season progresses and try to make a run in sub-section 2A."
Off to a 1-3 start, the Wolverines will face Westbrook-Walnut Grove Jan. 6 in their next game.
Murray County Central
Graduating seven quality players from last season's 15-12 team, the Murray County Central Rebels will need four returning letterwinners to lead this year's team.
Seniors Mike Tentinger and Mark Bau, along with juniors Eric Wieneke and Kyle DeLong, return as the only fourletter winners for head coach Tim Bobeldyk.
"We are a young, inexperienced varsity team," Bobeldyk said. "We're a team that hopefully will be balanced, not relying on one person to run the offense."
Jase Bly returns as the third senior on the team, while a plethora of juniors round out the Rebels' roster this season.
MCC is off to a 1-2 start this season and will travel to Albert Lea for a holiday tournament Monday.
Red Rock Central
Last season, RRC averaged 60 points per contest. This season, the Falcons will have to replace all but two of those points.
Without a returning letter winner, Brian Benedict, who played in eight games last year, is the most seasoned player returning for head coach Brian Walker.
"This year's group all were able to play on the B-squad to gain experience, and also they played together in summer league this year, so were able to work together there too," Walker said.
Looking to fill the holes for RRC this year will be seniors Bevern Wani, Benedict and Matt Fox, juniors Jake Fredrickson, Aaron Furth, Nathan Bierman, and sophomores Tyler Erickson and Andrew Engen.
RRC is off to a 1-2 start in this year's campaign. The Falcons will face Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Monday.
After graduating 84 percent of their scoring from a season ago, the Round Lake-Brewster Raiders will be looking to fill the offensive void this season.
Off to an 0-4 start, the Raiders have been relying on the inside play of Dillon Hansen. A 6-6 post, Hansen is one of five seniors looking to lead RL-B this year.
Nick Ober, Jeremy Nelson, Alex Busch and Tyler Olson join Hansen as seniors on this year's team.
Along with the seniors, juniors Neil McNab, Tyler Oolbekkink, Josh Heidelberger and Jacob Haberman will also factor into the Raiders' rotation.
For head coach Lon Eichenberger, team unity has been a strength, but is looking for improvement this year.
"It is definitely going to be a year in which we will be looking to steadily improve as the season progresses," Eichenberger said. "We are going to have our ups and downs, but the Raiders will need to adjust and continue to prepare."
RL-B will continue its season Monday at the ML/B-O Holiday Tournament.
Four seniors will look to lead the Southwest Christian Eagles this season for head coach Jamie Pap.
With a 1-1 record so far this season, the Eagles have defeated Edgerton 58-56, and lost to Ellsworth, 55-40, in two conference clashes.
Nic Pfeifle, who scored 23 points against Edgerton, looks to be a main contributor this season, as do fellow seniors Kellen Kooi, Tyler Van Schepen and Kendall Stroeh.
Juniors Corey Vis, Derek Tinklenberg, Spencer Mesman, Jade Tinklenberg, Cody Huisken, Steven Talsma and Jared Mouw round out the roster for the Eagles this season.
SWC, which finished 19-6 last season, will continue its season Jan. 3 when the Eagles host Central Minnesota Christian.
Southwest Star Concept
Off to a 4-0 start this season, the Southwest Star Concept Quasars are hoping to be atop the Red Rock Conference this season.
Leading the list of eight returning letter winners for head coach Tim Owen is Ben Scheevel.
A senior who averaged nearly 17 points and 10 rebounds per game last season, Scheevel can create mismatch problems with his 6-4 frame.
Along with Scheevel, seniors Kirk McBreen, William Cranston (10.6 points per game) and Cory Pelzel return and will give depth to the Quasars.
Andrew Rossow, Logan Glaser, Jeremy Crocker and Derek Stenzel will see quality minutes, as will juniors Alex Collin, Brady Hall, Jared Pomerenke and Ted Haberman.
With depth and experience, Owen points to quickness and a tough defensive approach as strengths for this season.
SSC will travel to Hills-Beaver Creek Jan. 6.
With height, quickness and experience, the Chargers are hoping to continue their hold atop the conference.
With a 5-0 start, including a pair of victories in the conference, W-WG head coach Derrick Jenniges will look to seven returning letterwinners to improve on last year's 16-9 record.
Dan McClellan (6-7) and Jace Jarmer (6-6, 13 points, nine rebounds per game) return to give the Chargers size on the inside.
Derek Eichner (8.8 points, six rebounds per game) returns, along with Mason Comnick (12.7 ppg), Josh Merrick, Justin Knakmuhs and Jon LeBoutillier (14.7 points, 4.2 assists) -- all who will be key factors in W-WG's success.
Pryce Parker and Theo Johnson will give the Chargers depth, which Jenniges points to as a strength.
W-WG will host ECHO Charter Jan. 3.
Despite a lack of height this year, head coach Rick Haberman has nine returning letterwinners to lead the Panthers.
Off to a 3-1 start, T-M-B will be led by seniors Walker Schaar, Brandon Kirk, Isaac Dolan, Alex Jones, Chris Hansen, Aaron Frisvold and Bo Kirsh.
Junior Josh Soupir and sophomore Dominic Dolan also return as letterwinners.
Along with the nine returners, Haberman is looking to Aric Carpenter, Lucas Dolan, Ronnie Jorgenson and Shane Erickson to vie for playing time.
With a lack of height, Haberman looks to depth, balanced scoring and great attitudes as strengths for the Panthers.
The Panthers will continue their season Monday when they travel to Wabasso.