Prep boys basketball: Top players return to shoot for winter success
The Southwest Minnesota Christian boys basketball team fell just a couple buckets shy of a state tournament berth last season. The Eagles led by as many as seven points during the second half in the Section 3A title game against Central Minnesota...
The Southwest Minnesota Christian boys basketball team fell just a couple buckets shy of a state tournament berth last season.
The Eagles led by as many as seven points during the second half in the Section 3A title game against Central Minnesota Christian. They were outscored 15-4 during the final 7:43 of the contest, however, and saw the Bluejays score four points in the final minute to steal a 48-44 victory.
It was a tough loss to swallow considering it was a very senior-laden SWC squad. The losses included Daily Globe All-Area first-teamer Luke Nibbelink and third-teamer Jay DeBoer. Also graduated from last year’s team are Jacob Kreun, Jace Vander Maten, Peter Kroll, Brevan Jasper, Dayton Van Hulzen and Spencer Stroeh.
In other words, the Eagles have some holes to fill.
Their top returners are 6-4 senior center Levi Vander Woude - who provides a stellar inside presence both in the scoring and rebounding departments - and 5-8 junior guard Jeremy Vander Woude. Another guard, Jordan Ward, got some valuable playing time last season and will likely take on a larger leadership role.
Either way, Southwest Minnesota Christian’s head coach Jamie Pap seems to re-tool rather than re-build. The Eagles will expect to be in the mix again this season.
To get to the Section 3A finals, the Eagles had to beat another strong area squad in Murray County Central.
The Rebels will feature one of the top returning players in southwest Minnesota, 2015 Daily Globe All-Area first-teamer Grant Rohrer. As a junior, the 6-5 center helped MCC to a Red Rock Conference title and a 23-6 overall record by averaging 20.1 points and 14.9 rebounds per game.
With Rohrer holding down the fort in the paint, junior Cole Bassett is the Rebels’ top returning guard with Garrett Johnson and Kyle Schreier providing depth in head coach Tim Bobeldyk’s back court.
Jackson County Central and Pipestone Area both reached their subsection title games in 2014-15.
The Huskies finished 19-9 overall and 9-6 in the Big South Conference. Their season ended with a tough 56-54 loss to Fairmont in the Section 3AA South title game. What made them so formidable was their ability to put points on the board.
Averaging 82.4 points per game, a very deep JCC team was third in Class AA in scoring last year. Head coach Trent Sukalski has most of his big guns returning from that group. In fact, the Huskies graduated only three seniors and can be counted on to be a contender once again.
Senior Colton Timmer, a 6-5 forward, earned Daily Globe All-Area second team honors by averaging 12.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game as a junior. One of his classmates, 6-9 center Bodey Behrends, probably would have had an even better junior season if not for some injury issues. He still managed to be one of the top bigs in the area on both ends of the floor, putting up 9.8 points, 8.1 boards and 3.3 blocked shots per outing.
The Arrows did plenty of scoring themselves last season with a nightly average of 73.9 points; good for fifth in Class AA. They reached the Section 3AA North title game before a tough 70-64 loss to Redwood Valley. They enter this season off of a 16-10 overall, 9-5 Big South campaign.
Pipestone had a senior group last year. All-Area selections Collin Moeller and Boyer Bouman both graduated last spring. Junior forward Cooper Kanthak, senior forward Brayden Baartman and senior guard Justin Rops will be among the top returners this season.
Pipestone Area also is one of three area teams with new head coaches this season. Troy Bouman is taking the reins from Joe Kahl, but he is no stranger to Arrow sports. A longtime football and softball coach, Bouman has seen plenty of success in Pipestone.
In Adrian, Blake Miller takes over for longtime Dragons’ head man Dean Schnaible after the squad went 9-17 overall and 5-11 in the Red Rock Conference last season. Also in the RRC, Heron Lake-Okabena has a new face calling the shots who will be familiar to most Wildcat fans.
Les Knutson takes over for the 2015-16 season with plenty of success as the schools’ girls basketball coach. Before retiring in 2010, Knutson racked up 519 wins, the 12th most of any coach in Minnesota girls basketball history.
Another team that will look to contend for the Red Rock Conference crown is Hills-Beaver Creek. Veteran head coach Steve Wiertzema guided his team to a 16-9 overall record last year while going 10-4 in the conference. The team leader from that squad, Carey Taubert, graduated. But all-around athletes Cooper Vaughn, Isaiah Vis, Stuart Plimpton and Zach Scholten are back and will help make the Patriots relevant again this winter.
Mountain Lake Area enters the year off of a strong 2014-15 season during which it went 13-12 overall but 12-4 in league play. All-Area honorable mention guard Levi Stoesz is the Wolverines’ top returner.
In the Camden Conference, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton brings back almost everyone from a team that finished last season with a mark of 21-5 and 11-3 in the conference. Josh Kirk, Brett Swenhaugen and Riley Kirk will be among the Panthers’ players to watch.
Other top returning players from throughout the area who will look to make headlines this season include: Quinton Siebenahler (Luverne), Anthony Ross (Westbrook-Walnut Grove), Luke Engen (Red Rock Central) and Jordan Kyle (Harris-Lake Park). All received postseason honors from the Daily Globe last year.
South of the border, Sibley-Ocheyedan and head coach Ryan Wiersma will look for improvement from a 3-19 campaign in 2014-15. The top two schools in the Daily Globe coverage area last season record-wise were Harris Lake-Park (18-5) and Sheldon (14-8). The Wolves should be strong again with returners Kyle and Skylar Cudmore looking to lead the way.
George-Little Rock finished the season strong under head coach Curt Schilling. The Mustangs will look to keep that trend moving in the right direction this season.