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Boys basketball: JCC, MCC re-tool after exceptional seasons

Coming off a 96-90 loss to Braham in the Minnesota Class AA state boys basketball final last season, Jackson County Central brings back a group of experienced and committed players who want to continue the team's success.

Coming off a 96-90 loss to Braham in the Minnesota Class AA state boys basketball final last season, Jackson County Central brings back a group of experienced and committed players who want to continue the team’s success.

In last season’s championship, the Huskies trailed 50-29 at halftime but scored 61 second-half points to give Braham a run for its money. JCC finished the 2015-16 season with an overall record of 25-6 and was 9-3 in Big South Conference play.

The starting backcourt from the state final team returns for 2016-17 in seniors Ryan Christopher, who averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last year; and Jacob Christopher, who averaged 8.1  points, 7.8 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game.

But the team has to replace three graduated all-Big South conference starters in Matt Ringkob, Colton Timmer and Bodey Behrends. It will look to do so with a roster filled to the brim with experience -- even if it isn’t necessarily starting experience -- as the roster features 11 seniors.

“The others played a lot last year,” Huskies head coach Trent Sukalski said of this year’s senior class. “They just didn’t start every game. Now they move into the starting roles and they are certainly ready to come in and do that.”

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One key player expected to fill the void left by the graduated front court is 6-1 forward Chris Gumto. He started a handful of games and was a key contributor off the bench for JCC last season, averaging six points and five rebounds per game.

Having an abundance seniors who have played together for several seasons brings a tremendous team chemistry, the coach says, and that will be a major asset for the Huskies.

“These kids have played a lot of basketball together all the way from their elementary days,” he said. “Sometimes they play 100 games a year. And they play other sports together. When you play that much together you build a great chemistry. Our greatest strength is our chemistry and the ability to play unselfish basketball and play together.”

Murray County Central is also coming off a tough loss to end its 2015-16 season as it advanced one game away from a state tournament berth, dropping the Section 3A final 72-51 to Central Minnesota Christian. The Rebels finished 26-4 and 16-1 in Red Rock Conference play.

They have a big hole to fill as they lost 6-5 post player Grant Rohrer to Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.

“We’re talking about trying to replace somebody who had 24 points and 15 rebounds a game,” MCC head coach Tim Bobeldyk said. “We’re not going to be able to do that with one individual. It’ll have to be numerous players stepping up.”

Also graduated from last year’s squad are Noah Lupkes, Jack Erickson, Tyler Spence, Landon Like, Kyle Schreier and Garrett Johnson.

The lone returning starter for the Rebels this year is 6-1 senior guard Cole Bassett.

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“He really came on at the end of the year and became a big offensive threat,” Bobeldyk said. “He is going to have a heavy weight on his shoulders. But he can’t do it himself.”

Looking to help Bassett on the floor this year, will be 6-0 guard Brad Schreiber and 5-10 guard Kellan Johnson, who each saw playing time last year.

Looking to fill the void in the paint left by the departed Rohrer is 6-3 senior center Brady Woldt. Six-one senior forward Mason Whitehead will help out in the paint as well, but he will start the season on the shelf as he recovers from a football injury.

“We don’t have the one standout player like we had last year, but I think the guys complement each other really well,” Bobeldyk said. “Hopefully we’re going to be more balanced on offense, so teams can’t key on one particular person or area of the court.”

Graduation hits SWC MCC topped Southwest Christian 84-75 in overtime in the Section 3A South final to qualify for the section championship game. The Eagles finished last season 15-11 overall and 12-4 in Red Rock Conference play.

They return 6-0 all-conference guard Jeremy Vander Woude and experienced senior guard Jared Vis, but lose all-conference starters 6-5 center Levi Vander Woude and 6-1 forward Colby Den Herder to graduation. Also gone is 5-9 guard Jordan Ward.

Mountain Lake Area finished last season ranked second in the Red Rock with an in-conference record of 14-2 and handed MCC its lone conference defeat of the year, 75-72.

The victory over the Rebels was part of a seven-game winning streak to end the regular season that sent the Wolverines into the Section 2A tournament red-hot. But they hit a Springfield-shaped wall in the second round, ending their season with an 87-67 defeat.

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The Wolverines return experienced backcourt players 6-0 senior guard Levi Stoesz, who averaged 19 points per game last season, and 6-3 junior guard Marcus Boyd who averaged 7.8.

Gone from last year’s team is all-conference guard Ryan McCue, who averaged 12.1 points, and a team-high 6.9 rebounds per game.

Somewhere in the Red Rock Conference mix will be Edgerton (11-5 in conference play last year), Hills-Beaver Creek (10-6), Red Rock Central (7-9), Adrian (6-10), Ellsworth (5-12), Westbrook-Walnut Grove (4-12), Heron Lake-Okabena (4-12) and Fulda (1-16).

Competing with Jackson County Central in the Big South Conference are Windom Area, Luverne and Pipestone Area.

The Eagles lose all-conference guards Jeff Pfeffer and Sam Huska, and eight other seniors. They will try to replace the graduated seniors with a young squad that features no seniors, but has 10 juniors and four sophomores.

Luverne is coming off an 8-17 season and opens Friday at Southwest Christian. The Cardinals will have a junior-dominated roster this year.

PA brings back all-conference honorable mention junior forward Tyl Woelber to a team that finished last season 10-14 and 5-7 in Big South play.

In northwest Iowa, area squads George-Little Rock and Sibley-Ocheyedan began their seasons going head-to-head on Tuesday, with G-LR winning 70-58. Austin Jensen had 19 points, Lucas Nagel 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Caleb Terhark 13 points for G-LR. Colvin Jenness had 19 points and Preston Marco six rebounds for the Generals.

Harris-Lake Park opens Friday at South O’Brien. The Wolves, who played for the Iowa state 8-Player championship recently, will feature a roster that looks a lot like that of the football squad. Wide-bodied Jordan Kyle, a second-team Daily Globe All-Area pick, returns.

Related Topics: BOYS BASKETBALL
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