HVL boys BB preview 11-30 /kh/
Winona Cotter won the Gold Division title a year ago and then went on to beat Cannon Falls 61-40 in the Hiawatha Valley League title game.
The Ramblers should be primed to repeat both scenarios this season as they have a stellar cast of players returning. Cotter has four starters back, led by senior guard Sam Blank who was honorable mention all state a year ago.
Byron and Lourdes should give Cotter a run for the Gold Division title.
Cannon Falls and Zumbrota-Mazeppa should be the teams to beat in the Blue Division.
WINONA COTTER (14-2, 23-7): The Ramblers had a stellar regular season but then were eliminated by La Crescent in the subsection finals. They are hoping to take the next step this year.
The high-scoring Blank may be one of the elite players in the conference. The 6-foot senior was the top scorer in the HVL a year ago. He averaged 18 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists a game.
Junior Patrick Bowlin and senior Jeff Gilbertson are three-year starters. Bowlin (6-1, guard/forward) was also honorable mention all state and averaged 10 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists a game. Gilbertson (6-4, center) is coming off an ankle injury but averaged 8 points and 5 rebounds.
David Leaf (5-10, Sr., G) is the team playmaker who averaged 7 points a game last year.
Other key players are seniors Brian Huegerl (6-3, post) and Adam Cloeter (5-10, guard) and juniors Andrew Wolfe
(6-1, PG) and Thomas O’Brien (6-2, G).
BYRON (10-6, 15-11): The Bears lost just one player from a year ago and have six players back who started games. Two players were all-HVL.
"We would expect this team to be a conference contender, however, several teams in our league were young last year which makes for some great competition this season," coach Kerry Linbo said.
Senior Brandon Tutewohl is a three-year starter. The 6-2 guard was all-HVL a year ago when he averaged 12.6 and 5 rebounds a game. Junior Darwin Olson
(6-5, post) was also all-HVL after averaging 10.6 points and 6 rebounds.
Juniors Brandon Milde (6-4, G) and Ian Daniels
(6-4, post) also give the Bears good height. Milde averaged 8.4 ppg and 4.6 rpp while Daniels averaged 2.5 points and rebounds.
Other starters back are senior guards Neil Fuchs (4.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg) and Brandon Gilbertson (6.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg). Senior post Dana Walker (3.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg) also saw extended action. Seniors Matt Kerr (5-9, G) and Matt Sauer (5-11, F) will also be in the rotation.
LOURDES (12-4, 18-8): The Eagles have had two straight strong seasons in the HVL and should again be in the thick of the race.
Junior guard Tom Gores is already in his third year as a starter. He will be relied upon to score more after netting 11 a game last year.
Point guard Dan Lose (5-10, Sr.) also returns as a starter, giving the Eagles a strong backcourt. He scored 3.5 a game a year ago and will also be counted on to score more.
Others who return with experience are seniors David Timmons (6-4, C), Thomas Wendt (6-0, G) and Luke Liebovich
(5-8, PG) and juniors Rob Poterucha (6-0, F) and John Kelsey (6-2, F).
The key for the Eagles will be to find enough capable scorers.
HAYFIELD (8-8, 10-16): The Vikings have four starters back and return one of the best all-around players in the league in senior Keefe Zelinske.
Zelinske (6-2, F) averaged 12.4 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.1 apg, 3.0 steals and 1.4 blocks. He led the league in assists and steals per contest and was third in rebounding.
Other starters back are seniors Justin Scherbring
(6-0, G) and Kasey Krekling (6-0, PG) and junior Darin Wagner (6-1, F). Scherbring averaged 8.2 points. Krekling averaged 6.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg and 3.7 apg. Wagner averaged 6.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.2 apg and shot 53 percent from the field.
Other leading candidates include senior Logan Arendts (5-11, G), juniors Dan Stier (6-2, C), Derek Petersen (6-2, F), Dustin Dornink (6-2, F) and Wiley Harang
(5-10, G) and freshman Tanner Kramer (5-9, PG).
Coach Chris Pack hopes "to be above .500 and finish in the top half of a very competitive Gold Division of the HVL."
STEWARTVILLE (5-10, 7-16): The Tigers could be primed for a step up with three returning starters.
"We should be competitive in the HVL," Tigers coach Tony Tuseth said.
Senior Anthony Thompson (6-2, G) returns as his third year as a starter. Others starters back are senior Brian Brown (5-10, G) and sophomore Tom Gisler
Tuseth likes the depth, size and shooting ability of his squad.
Other players in the mix for starting spots are seniors Jared Fritsch (5-10, G) and Dan Smelter (6-2, F) and juniors Craig English (5-9, G) and Steve Nosbisch (6-5, C). Top reserves will be juniors Matt Nielson
(6-3, C) and Donnie Beddow (6-1, G).
KASSON-MANTORVILLE (8-8, 10-13): The KoMets lost just two players from their rotation from last year.
Top seniors back are Josh Bernards, a forward, and guards Ben Buchl, Ben Oertli, Jeremy Wohlfiel and Dustin Hochhalter along with junior forward Micah Hegerle.
Size will be a drawback. Junior Brandon Erichsen, a 6-4 center) is the only player back taller than 6-2.
PINE ISLAND (7-9, 9-15): The Panthers have a new coach in Ryan Raabe. He has a lot of experience back as four starters return, two who were all-conference.
Seniors Josh Miller (6-4, C) and Luke Matzek (5-11, G) were all-HVL last year and are a good inside-outside combination. Miller averaged 14 points and
6 rebounds a game. Matzek averaged 12 points,
5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Seniors Jake Gabor (6-1) and Denny Meints (6-0) also return as starters. Gabor averaged 10 points and 4 rebounds while Meints averaged 4 and 2.
Other letterwinners back are senior Brady Hoffmann and junior Mike Benike. Juniors who could see action include Braxton McNamara, Tyler Gronseth, Jake Huglen, Nick Walters, Brady Kann and Deric Flom.
"The expectations are high for this Pine Island team," Raabe said. "We look to be competitive in each game we play this season.
ZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA (8-8, 9-15): Senior center Matt Husbyn heads the list of returning players for coach Tim McAthie.
The 6-3 Husbyn averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds.
Three other seniors forwards all stand 6-3 and give the Cougars some inside height. They include Ben Hinrichs (5.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Landon McAthie (1.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg) and Jake Shirley.
Seniors guards back are Mike Kruse (4.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Andy Wendroth, (3.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg), Mike Richardson (3.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg) and Josh Funk. Sophomore Drew Paukert will also see time at guard.
Forwards in the mix for playing time are juniors Kyle Lodermeier, David Hodgman and Jared Warneke and sophomore Nick Liffrig.
"We think we have a chance to contend if (the) chemistry stays there," coach McAthie said.
LAKE CITY (6-10, 7-16): Shawn Sweeney is in his second season as the boys coach at Lake City after previously coaching the girls team.
Senior forward Riley Koller is back as a three-year starter. The Tigers do not have a lot of experience in the backcourt with just one senior guard, Ben Borgschatz, on the squad.
Other seniors include forwards Nate Bunkowske, Matt Fick, Nick Moyer and Darrell Morales.
Juniors looking to see action are guards Jordan Schumacher, Dan Herron, Indy Liljevall, Ben Drehbiel and James Schmidt, forwards Joe Klenneert and Alex Wallerich and center Josh Roach. Sophomore forward Austin Gilles will also see action.
KENYON-WANAMINGO (6-10, 13-14): Josh Wieme is in his second year as head coach at K-W. The team doesn’t have a lot of experience back as just one starter returns.
Senior Nate Steenblock (6-0, G) is the lone starter back and he averaged 7 points a game last year.
Senior Andrew Afinson (6-0, G) and junior Evan Hiner (6-1, F) are the only other players to see extended action. Hiner averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds a game and Afinson averaged 2 points.
The other top players could all be seniors. They include Andrew Afinson (6-0, G), Mitch Johnson (6-1, F), Trevor Maring (6-2, F), Brad Froyum (6-2, F), Jake Traxler (6-3, C) and Tony Hanson (5-8, G).
"We have great kids," Wieme said. "I believe (they) will work hard and learn a lot. Five hundred is a good conference outlook."
TRITON (3-13, 7-19): The Cobras are looking for a breakout year after back-to-back 3-13 marks in HVL play.
Coach Jason Boe might finally have a team that can make noise in the league race. Five players return who were starters at some point in the season, though none averaged more than 6 points a game.
"We have six different players that led us in scoring in various games last year coming back, which means we will be more reliant to pick up our scoring as a team instead of just one or two individuals," Joe said.
Seniors Derek Sorenson (6-0, G), Zach Erdmann
(6-1, F/C) and Derek Thaden (5-11, F) return, as do juniors Chace Sackett (5-9, G) and Daine Jensch (6-0, F). All five averaged between 2.85 and 6.08 points a game, with Sorenson (6.08) and Sackett (5.33) leading the way. Erdmann averaged 4.8 ppg and 3.5 rpg. Thaden’s season ended early with an injury.
Riley Kispert (5-11, JR., G) also saw extended action last year. Others in the mix will be senior Boomer Schley (5-8, G) and sophomores Damon Andrews (6-0, C) and Coleton Theimann (5-6, G).