St. Charles vs Caledonia Boys Basketball (copy)

St. Charles’ Drew Maloney (35) lays in a shot during a Section 1AA semifinal game against Caledonia last season. Maloney is one of two St. Charles players back who averaged more than 16 points a game a year ago.

Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com

HIWATHA VALLEY LEAGUE

GOLD DIVISION

BYRON

Head coach: Kyle Finney (4th year, 48-37 record).
 
Assistant coaches:  Josh Bernards, Evan Morris.
 
Last season: The Bears finished 8-18 overall, 5-10 in the HVL and lost in first round to Stewartville in the first round of Section 1AA play.

Top returners: Jake Braaten (11.8 ppg), Travis Underwood (6.4 ppg), Easton Hulke (4.7 ppg), Tyler Underwood.
 
Top newcomers: Jaxon Marine, Ahjonny Lee. 

Season outlook: The Bears will have the postseason challenge of moving up from Class AA to AAA this season. Coach Kyle Finney hopes a strong regular-season schedule will help with the transition. Byron has one top scorer back in Braaten. Underclassmen Marine (6-foot-4) and Lee (6-6) will give the team some size.

Coach’s comments: "Looking forward to coaching this hard working crew," Finney said. "We are a very young group that will grow through the nightly battles we will face in the HVL conference. The quicker we can blend as a group the sooner we will see success."
 
CANNON FALLS

Head coach: Josh Davisson (23rd season, 9th as Cannon Falls boys coach, 119–108 record).

Assistants: Doug Rechtzigel, Ross Peterson.

Last season: The Bombers finished 17–11, won the HVL Blue Division with a 10–4 mark and lost in the first round of Section 1AA play to Zumbrota-Mazeppa.

Top returners: Rhett Schaefer (Sr., 5.6 ppg, 4.0 apg), Luke Sjoquist (Sr., 14.1 ppg), Drew Otte (Sr., 10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Nick Bultena (Sr.), Grant Mech (Sr.), Marcus Banks (Jr., 5.5 ppg), Camden Dicke (Jr.), Danny Safe (Jr.).

Top newcomer: Jack Dommeyer (Sr.).

Season outlook: The Bombers return an experienced squad as starters Rhett Schaefer, Luke Sjoquist and Drew Otte all return as do five reserves. Sjoquist was All-HVL a year ago while Otte was an honorable mention pick. The Bombers switch divisions with Lake City this year, moving from the Blue to the Gold. The Bombers should again be very competitive, but they will face tough competition in both a stacked conference and Section 1AA. "We are excited for the challenge our entire schedule presents," coach Josh Davisson said. "Our goal is to compete with the best in our conference and section."

Coach’s comments: "There is great potential in this group of young men," Davisson said. "Practices have been fun, competitive and, at times, heated. We have a nice mix of skilled, athletic and gritty players ready to put their mark on Bomber basketball."

LOURDES

Head coach: Eric Larson (4th season, 1st at Lourdes. 37-43 career record).

Assistant coaches: Todd Greguson, Kevin Hafner.

Last season: The Eagles finished 17-9 overall, 12-3 in the HVL and lost in the Section 1AA quarterfinals to La Crescent.

Top returners: Colin Meade, a 6-6 senior forward, was All-Conference last year when he averaged 19 points and 8 rebounds a game.

Top newcomers: Peyton Dunham, Ethan Sailer, Austin Loeslie, Trevor Greguson.

Season outlook: Lourdes has a new coach this season in Eric Larson, who stepped in after David Norris II resigned following the 2018-19 season. The Eagles will have to rely on a young crew. Meade is the only player back, but he is a big piece after averaging nearly 20 points and more than 8 rebounds a game last season. He will play college ball at St. John's. If the Eagles jell, they could be a contender in the HVL Gold Division race.

Coach’s comments: "We have a nice mix of size and skill on roster," Larson said. "There is a significant amount of new pieces to the team and players in a position to receive their first varsity basketball experience. It will be interesting to see how everyone fits together and adjusts to a different style of play but the potential of what this team is capable of is very exciting." 

KASSON-MANTORVILLE
 
Head coach: Nicholas Pocius (2nd Season at Kasson-Mantorville, 4th overall).
 
Assistant coaches: Pat Fitch, Micheal Bliss, Jeff Gruber.
 
Last season: The KoMets finished 4-23 overall, 4-12 in the HVL and lost to Northfield in the Section 1AAA quarterfinals.

Top returners: Junior Jace Bigelow (14.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2 apg,All-Conference); seniors Easton Knoll, Alex Jennisen, Tyler Wohlfiel, Jordan Kern (Most Improved from 2018-19 season), Jerron Sandeon.

Top newcomers: Senior Carter Nelson; sophomores Camden Holecek, Jordan Kepel; junior Kyler Kujath.

Season outlook: With some solid returning players along with a strong summer session, the KoMets should make big strides this season. Jace Bigelow led the team in scoring a year and was an All-HVL selection. "Continuing to be dedicated to the process is key," coach Nicholas Pocius said. The coach said the "conference is open for anyone," but K-M might not have enough pieces in place to make the jump to the top of the division.

Coach’s comments: "With continued dedication to the process we can be a strong team game in and out," Nicholas Pocius said. "These are extremely hard-working young men who could turn some heads with continued execution, togetherness, and resiliency."
 
STEWARTVILLE
 
Head coach: Adam Girtman (3rd year, 8-15 record).
 
Assistants: Tony Tuseth, Kasey Morlock, Aaron Samuel, Mitch Miller, Christian Bance.
 
Last season: The Tigers finished 18-8 overall, 10-5 in the HVL and lost in the Section 1AA quarterfinals to St. Charles.

Top returners: Will Tschetter (6-8, Jr., F, 21.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, All-Conference), Nolan Stier (Jr., G, 9.8 ppg), Austin Quandt, Bradon Holschlag, Derek Golliher, Chuck Winch.

Top newcomers: Kaleb Hellickson, Trent Einertson, Eli Klavetter, Bode Mayer.
 
Season outlook: The Tigers return a pair of starters in juniors Will Tschetter and Nolan Stier. The 6-8 Tschetter is one of the top players in the area and the junior already has Division I college offers. Coach Adam Girtman is looking for seniors on the team to step in and fill in gaps from last year's depart players. If they succeed, the Tigers will be a force in Section 1AA play. They are also one of the favorites to claim the HVL Gold Division title. "It will be a tall task as the other teams on that side of the division will be very solid teams with good players and depth," Girtman said. If the Tigers want to make a bid for the section title, they will have to get past Lake City and/or Caledonia.

Coach’s comments: "This year will be a good test to see how much we have improved from last year, losing three starters to graduation will provide this year's seniors and underclassmen an opportunity to earn considerable playing time," Girtman said. "We should be competitive in most games we play."
 
BLUE DIVISION
 
GOODHUE
 
Head coach: Matt Halvorson (7th season as head, 114-70 record).
 
Assistants: Mark Opsahl, Robby Ebner, Mike DeWeese.
 
Last season: The Wildcats were 7-20 overall, 3-11 in the HVL and lost to Blooming Prairie in the first round of Section 1A play.

Top returners: Sam Opsahl (13 ppg), Conor O'Reilly, Ethan Schafer, Jason Gorman.

Top newcomers: Sam Peterson (junior), Will Opsahl (freshman).

Season outlook: The Wildcats will move up a class this season and are now in Section One, Class AA. Their regular season will not be impacted and they will continue to play in the HVL, which is filled with Class AA and AAA teams. Goodhue will face a stiff postseason challenge in rugged Section 1AA, where Lake City and Caledonia are the favorites. Sam Opsahl is the lone starter back. Luke Wallaker was suppose to return as the starting center, but he has a knee injury. This marks the seconds straight year Goodhue's starting center has been lost to due injury.

Coach’s comments: "We are rededicating to our defense and know that will result in more success than last year," Matt Halvorson said. "We have a great core of seniors that we hope will bring along the younger players that we are going to need to contribute throughout the year."
 
KENYON-WANAMINGO

Head coach: Brent Lurken (2nd season, 1-25 record).

Assistants: Brady Anfinson, Karisa Bilitz, Micah Johnson, Gavin Roosen, Brian Flom, Eric Story, Jim Sviggum.

Last season: The Knights finished 1-25 overall, 1-13 in the HVL and lost to New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in the first round of Section 2AA play.

Top returners: Tate Erlandson (Sr., 12 ppg), Casey Wesbur (Jr.,  6 ppg).

Top newcomers: Sophomores Paul Kortsch, Gavin Sommer, freshman Cal Luebke.

Season outlook: The Knights hope to be greatly improved this season and return a pair of starters in Tate Erlandson and Casey Wesbur. K-W's path in the HVL Blue Division got tougher with Lake City's shift to the division. Section 2AA is also more of a challenge with Waseca, a state qualifier a year ago, moving into the section.

Coach’s comments: "We are working hard each day to improve," Brent Lurken said. "We hope to be playing our best basketball come playoff time."

LAKE CITY
 
Head coach: Greg Berge (14th year, 249-100 record).
 
Assistants: Ross Fuchs, Andy Hoch, Stew Talbert, Luther Berkeland.
 
Last season: The Tigers are coming off an excellent season in which they finished 28-3 overall, 17-0 in HVL, were the Section 1AA champions and placed third at state.

Top returners: Nathan Heise (6-5, Sr. G, 21.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.5 apg), Reid Gastner (6-4, Sr., G, 14.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.5 apg), Jake Wohlers (6-3, Sr., G, 7.7 ppg), Justin Wohlers (6-5, Soph., G, 4.5 ppg), Brady Schurhammer (6-3, Sr., F).

Top newcomers: Carson Matzke (6-2, Soph., G), Atticus Heise (6-1, Sr., G), Mason White (6-0, Sr., G), Jackson Berge (6-0, Sr., G), Andrew Green (6-0, Sr., G).
 
Season outlook: With four starters back, the Tigers have high expectations. They are the favorites in the HVL and on the short list of teams to beat in Section 1AA. They have won five straight overall HVL titles and move from the Gold to the Blue Division this year. Three starters -- Nathan Heise, Reid Gastner and Jake Wohlers -- were All-HVL last season and Heise was the league's MVP. Heise (Division I, Northern Iowa) and Gastner (D-II, Minnesota State, Moorhead) have signed to play college ball. Justin Wohlers is the other starter back while Brady Schurhammer was a key player off the bench. The Tigers are very athletic and have a number of players in the 6-3 to 6-5 height range. 

Coach’s comments: "We have the ability to be an excellent defensive team," Greg Berge said. "We have a good shooting team and a team that is very tight knit, plays well together and players who know and accept their role. We have high expectations this season and hope to get better each day, defend at a very high level, and be playing our best basketball by the end of the season."

TRITON

Head coach: Zak Hanegraff (5th season, 39-70 record).
 
Assistants: Sam Storlie, Ben Bauer.
 
Last season: The Cobras finished 8-19 overall, 3-11 in the HVL and lost in the first round of Section 1AA play to Caledonia.

Top returners: Jay Yankowiak (Sr., 7.0 ppg), Austin Melder (Sr.), Parker Boe (Sr.).

Top newcomers: Coach Zak Hanegraff says the Cobras have a "strong junior and sophomore class who will look to contribute early on."

Season outlook: The Cobras graduated their top three scorers from a year ago. But with a solid senior class, coach Hanegraff hopes the Cobras can be one of the better teams in the Blue Division of the HVL. The Cobras and the rest of the division will be chasing Lake City for the Blue title.
 
Coach’s comments: "I feel like we will be competitive each night and look to compete for a top spot on our side of the HVL," Hanegraff said. "We have great senior leadership and I look for that to carry over to others on our team."
 
ZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA

Head coach: Fred Liffrig (8th season).

Assistants: Logan Jensen, Todd Stockmo.

Last season: The Cougars finished 17-9 overall, were the HVL Blue co-champions with a 10-4 record and lost to Lake City in Section 1AA quarterfinals.

Top returners: Zach Hutton (5.8 ppg, 8 rpg), Anthony Cylkowski (10.5 ppg).

Top newcomers: Broc Fredrickson, Josh Hutton, Willie Holm, Kaleb Stensland, Landen Chandler, Joel Matuska, Parker Miller, Tanner Gates.

Season outlook: The Cougars have a pair of solid players back in Zach Hutton, who was All-HVL last season, and Anthony Cylkowski, who averaged 10.5 ppg a game despite being a key reserve. Z-M should again field a strong team, but with Lake City in the Blue Division this year, the Cougars are unlikely to compete for the HVL title. Coach Fred Liffrig also lists Lake City and Caledonia as the Section 1AA favorites.

Coach’s comments: "We graduated four starters, so we will need to find a group of players that can find a way to play together," Liffrig said.

THREE RIVERS CONFERENCE

EAST DIVISION

CALEDONIA

Head coach: Brad King (3rd season, 51-11 record).

Assistants: Jeremy Leis, Dan Reihart, Bob Burmaster, Colton Lampert, Austin Bauer, Jimmy Weslin.

Last season: The Warriors finished 23-6 overall, 16-0 in the Three Rivers Conference and lost to St. Charles in the Section 1AA semifinals.

Top returners: Senior Noah King (19.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.1 apg), sophomore Eli King (13.0 ppg, 5.3 rpb, 5.1 apg), juniors Sam Privet, Austin Klug.

Top newcomers: Juniors Andrew Kunelius, Casey Schultz.

Season outlook: The Warriors are the heavy favorite to win the East Division in the Three Rivers Conference and will be one of the top teams in the loaded Section 1AA field. Caledonia, which finished second in the state two years ago, has a strong team with four starters back in Noah King, Eli King, Sam Privet and Austin Klug. Noah King has already signed to play at South Dakota State, when older brother Owen currently plays, and Eli is also expected to be a Division I college player. Many of the basketball players, including the two King brothers, just finished helping Caledonia win a fifth straight Class AA state football title last week.

Coach's comments: "We look forward to competing for a section title," Brad King said. "We have a nice team that should be near the top of the conference that is pretty good. Section (1AA) is arguably the best in the state ... I believe we have a chance to make it out of the section. We are off to a late start because of football, a great reason, but put a lot of time in this summer so hopefully we are up to speed quickly. How we defend will decide our season."

FILLMORE CENTRAL

Head coach: Brady O'Connor (1st season).

Assistants: John O'Connor, Chad Musel.

Last season: The Falcons finished 0-27 overall, 0-16 in the Three Rivers and lost to Lanesboro in the first round of Section 1A play.

Top returners: Seniors Ian Shupe, Hadie Williams, Mason Berg, juniors Zach Haugerud, Carson Kiehne.

Top newcomers: Senior Haidyn Gunderson, juniors Grant Kennedy, Trevor Hershberger, Wyatt Breeser, Jecob Wood, Jeremy O'Connor, sophomore Haven O'Connor.

Season outlook: The Falcons are hoping for a fresh start this season after going winless a year ago. The team's new look begins with the coaching staff as Brady O'Connor will guide the Falcons this season. The first-year coach hopes the Falcons can jell into a solid unit and play competitive throughout the season.

Coach’s comments: "We hope to play an exciting brand of basketball and compete every night," coach Brady O'Connor said. "We have a great group of hard working kids that really enjoy basketball."

La CRESCENT/HOKAH

Head coach: Ryan Thibodeau (6th at La Crescent/Hokah, 56-78 record).

Assistants: Blake Sjoberg, Jarrett Svestka. 

Last season: The Lancers finished 21-8 overall, 12-4 in the Three Rivers and reached the Section 1AA semifinals before falling to eventual section champ Lake City.

Top returners: Luke Schwartzhoff (Sr., 16.3 ppg, 7.6 Rrpg, 1.4 apg), Zach Todd (Sr., 15.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.4 apg); Isaac Petersen (Sr., 7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg), Josh Kerska (Sr., 2.9 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.1 apg).

Top newcomers: Seniors Mitch Dryden, Austin Embke, Mason Bills, juniors Jaden Einerwold, sophomores Cody Kowalski, Camron Manske.

Season outlook: The Lancers are primed for another strong season as they have a senior-dominated team and a lot of experience and talent back from last year's 21-win club. Luke Schwartzhoff and Zach Todd were both All-Conference selections last season. "We have some younger players who we will be fitting into our rotation, and our leadership will be counted on to help bring this group closer together," coach Ryan Thibodeau said. "We understand the competitiveness of our league and section and expect to be in hunt in late February, playing our best basketball into March."

Coach’s comments: "This group of seniors is special, and I’ve been fortunate the last couple of years to have strong senior classes," Thibodeau  said. "I am excited to grow as a team this season and continue our climb in the TRC and section."

LEWISTON-ALTURA

Head coach: Michael VanderPlas (4th season, 38-44 record).

Assistants: Patrick Oevering, Alex Brown, Brett Egland.

Last season: The Cardinals were 13-14 overall, 8-8 in the Three Rivers and lost in first round of Section 1AA play against Lourdes.

Top returners: Seniors Gunner Reed (Sr., 15.8 ppg), Cole Mundt, Blake Schilling, Thomas Menk, Collin Bonow, Jerry Hines.

Top newcomers: Charlie Kaczorowski, Sam Bronk, Tommy Lee.

Season outlook: The Cardinals have a full-time starter back in Gunner Reed, who was All-Conference last year, and two other players who started most games in Cole Mundt and Blake Schilling. L-A loses 11 seniors, but coach Michael VanderPlas expects a better record this year and says "we have a quicker, deeper team with more scoring ability this season." The Cardinals will face a lot of talented teams both in the Three Rivers and in Section 1AA. VanderPlas hopes the team can earned a first-round home game in section play (top eight seed).

Coach’s comments:  "It has been such a fun season already," VanderPlas said. "The guys are competitive and intense, yet have so much fun together. They have played a lot of ball with each other over the years and they look to have a great showing this season."

RUSHFORD-PETERSON

Head coach: Chris Drinkall (2nd season, 18-11 record).

Assistants: Joe Hatch, Davin Thompson.

Last season: The Trojans finished 18-11 overall, 9-7 in the Three Rivers and lost in Section 1A semifinals to Randolph.

Top returners: Luke O'Hare, Justin Ruberg, Ben Wieser, Malachi Bunke.

Top newcomers: Halen Schwendinger, Korey Burroughs, Jonah Sievers.

Season outlook: The Trojans have to find a new point guard this season, but they have some other returning veterans, headed by Luke O'Hare, who was All-Conference a year ago. R-P figures to be a contender for the Section 1A title, but will have to rely on underclassmen as the team features just two seniors to go along with four juniors and six sophomores.

Coach's comments: "I hope to compete for a conference and section title," Chris Drinkall said. "There are a lot of good teams in both our conference and section. It should be a fun year."

WEST DIVISION

CHATFIELD

Head coach: Jeff DeBuhr (4th season, 23-52 record).

Assistants: Ryan Eppen, Matt Davidson.

Last season: The Gophers finished 11-14 overall, 6-9 in the Three Rivers and lost to La Crescent-Hokah in the first round of Section 1AA play.

Top returners: Seniors Landon Bance (11.5 ppg), Chance Backer, juniors Reid Johnson (16.6 ppg), David Castleberg (8.4 ppg), freshman Cole Johnson.

Top newcomers: Juniors Masyn Remme, Henry Gathje, Austin Koenigs, Ben Fretland.

Season outlook: The Gophers have three starters back in senior Landon Bance and juniors Reid Johnson and David Castleberg. Johnson was All-Conference last year while Bance was an honorable mention selection. The Gophers figure to be a notch below the elite teams in the Three Rivers and Section 1AA, but could make the jump into the top half of each.

Coach’s comments: "We should be in the middle of the pack this year in the conference and section with a goal of moving into the upper tier," Jeff DeBuhr said. "We return a lot of experienced players to the team this year. We should be more athletic and quicker than in the past few years."

PLAINVIEW-ELGIN-MILLVILLE

Head coach: Jason Herber (14th season, 4th at PEM, 163-170 overall record).

Assistants: Chad Orum, Rich Olson, Zach Ziebell.

Last season: The Bulldogs finished 15-12 overall, 11-5 in the Three Rivers and lost to Dover-Eoyta in the first round of Section 1AA play.

Top returners: Blake Herber (Jr., 16.5 ppg, 4.3 apg), Conner Schumacher (Jr., 10.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 spg), Gunner Ramthun (Sr., 4.5 ppg), Sam Schultz (Sr.). 

Top newcomers: Seniors Jordan Zabel, Isaac Root, Kaden Lamb, Gage Hansen, Samson Hagen, juniors Luke Stevens, Christian Tentis, sophomores Peyton Schumacher, Connor McGuire.

Season outlook: The Bulldogs have three returning starters in high-scoring Blake Herber, Conner Schumacher and Gunner Ramthun. Herber was All-Conference a year ago. With all that experience back, coach Jason Herber believes P-E-M can compete for a conference title and is hoping for a top-eight seed in the section so the Bulldogs can play a home playoff game.

Coach’s comments: "This is the deepest team I have had in my four years at P-E-M which makes for great competition for playing time," Jason Herber said. "We are very fast and athletic and have several guys that score, but the key for us is we must get better defensively then were a year ago to keep us in games when the shots are falling. We will play very uptempo all over the floor and hope to compete for a conference title. Our section is loaded and the best in (Class) AA in my opinion as we have two of the top three teams in the state to start the year and several other teams that have the capability of winning 17-20 games. Every night will be a dogfight in our section."

SOUTHLAND

Head coach: Matt Webber.

Assistants: Ryan Retterath, Sam Klaehn.

Last season: The Rebels finished 6-20 overall, 3-13 in the Three Rivers Conference and lost to Rushford-Peterson in the second round of the Section 1A playoffs.

Top returners: Reece Tapp (5.3 ppg), Noah Lamp, Matt Mueller (10.8 ppg), Nick Boe (5.4 ppg), Dan Boe.

Top newcomers: Josh Mullenbach, Harrison Hannah, Eli Wolf, Brendan Kennedy.

Season outlook: Southland looks to bounce back this year after last season's six-win campaign. The Rebels do not figure to be in contention for a conference title, but hope to make some noise during the postseason. Coach Matt Webber said the goal is to be "competitive in every contest."

Coach's comments: "We will look to grow and find our identity early in the season but will be ready to compete all year with a great group of athletes," Webber said.

ST. CHARLES

Head coach: Terry Knothe (39th season, 543-385).

Last season: The Saints finished 19-8 overall, won the Three Rivers West Division with a 13-3 mark and reached the Section 1AA finals before falling to Lake City.
 
Top returners: Drew Maloney (16.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.6 apg), Kooper Vaughn (17.0 ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.8 apg), Sam Lewis, Chase Walters, Sam Linderbaum, Tyler Gransee.
 
Season outlook: The Saints have a pair of strong players back in juniors Drew Maloney and Kooper Vaughn, who were both All-Conference a year ago. Vaughn made 101 3-pointers last year, among the state leaders. The Saints should be primed to compete for another division title in the Three Rivers and hope to make another strong run in the rugged Section 1AA tournament. 
 
Coach's comments: "We hope to compete for another Three Rivers West conference title, and, make a run towards a Section 1AA title," Knothe said. "However, it will take a huge effort as the talent level in this section and in our conference is easily the best it has ever been. There are more D-I and D-II type players in this single year than nearly all other years put together."

WABASHA-KELLOGG

Head coach: Alex Borgschatz (3rd season, 22-31 record).
 
Assistants: Jaxon Mickow, Rob Venz, Nick Meyer, Mike Scheel.
 
Last season: The Falcons were 6-21, 2-14 in the Three Rivers and lost to Spring Grove in the second round of the Section 1A playoffs.
 
Top Returners: Seniors Max Kuntz (10.7 ppg), Taariq Bouissardane (9.8 ppg), Luke Bergan (9.3 ppg), Alex Avilez (5.9 ppg), Ben Solberg, junior Max Bergan (9.6 ppg), sophomore Adam Dunagan.
 
Top Newcomers: Ian Nelson, Kedron Reimers, Lukas Busch.
 
Season outlook: The Falcons have high expectations as they return all five starters and their entire rotation from a year ago. They hope to use that experience to be competitive in both the conference and the section. "We played a very difficult schedule last year and look to build on the experience we gained from adversity," coach Alex Borgschatz said. "Our conference will be very difficult being one of three 1A teams, but (we) look forward to that challenge and appreciate what it does for postseason preparation." 
 
Coach's comments: "We have a very senior-heavy roster with a lot of varsity experience," Borgschatz said. "This group has been together for five years now and have worked really hard to be where they are today and look forward to being very competitive during their senior year."
 
SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE
 
EAST DIVISION
 
HOUSTON

Head coach: Trent Vix (3rd season).

Assistant: Zach Vix.

Last season: The Hurricanes finished 13-15 overall, 5-10 in the Southeast Conference and lost to eventual section champ Spring Grove 45-42 in the second round of Section 1A play.

Top returners: Mikkel Schutte (16.6 ppg), Alex Van Gundy (17.9 ppg, All-Conference), Caiden Danielson (9.8 ppg), Noah Kingsley (7.4 ppg).

Top newcomer: Jaden Abraham.

Season outlook: The Hurricanes could be primed for a strong season as they have four of their five starters back. Alex Van Gundy was All-Conference last season and he and Mikkel Schutte averaged in double figures for scoring. With Caiden Danielson and Noah Kingsley also back in the starting lineup, Houston should be a contender in the East Division of the SEC and could also be in running for a section championship.

Coach’s comments: "It should be a fun season," Trent Vix said. "We have a lot of returning talent and guys who have invested a lot of time over the offseason and are committed to achieving our goals this year."

LANESBORO
 
Head coach: Matt Asleson (1st year).

Assistant: Justin Howard.

Last season: The Burros finished 10-15 overall and 4-10 in SEC play. They won in the opening round of Section 1A play before losing to eventual section runner-up Randolph in the round of 16.

Top returners: Sawyer Johnson (Jr. G, 9.4 ppg), John Prestemon (Frosh., G, 4.7 ppg, 2.6 apg), JT Rein (Soph., G).

Top newcomers: Ryan Holmen (Jr., C), Bodie Mayer (Jr., C), Ben Snyder (Jr., F), Jr Guard Wilson Storhoff (Jr. G), Jake Gathje (Jr. G), Ben Eversol (Jr. G).

Season outlook: The youthful Burros, who have a new coach in Matt Asleson, lost four starters to graduation and do not have a single senior on this year's roster. Guard Sawyer Johnson is the lone returning starter. "We will be a little inexperienced but hope to compete in our conference and continue to improve each week," Asleson said. "Hopefully we are peaking at the end of the season and playing some meaningful playoff games. Section 1A will have several good teams and it will be a challenge come playoff time."

Coach’s comments: "I am very pleased with our numbers and the level of competition at practice," Asleson said. "The kids are focused and practicing with great intensity." 

SCHAEFFER ACADEMY

Head coach: Tom Bance (19th season, 2nd at Schaeffer, 219-247 career record).

Assistant coach: Chad VanSchepen.

Last season: The Lions finished 13-14 overall, 7-8 in the Southeast Conference and lost to Kingsland in the first round of Section 1A play.

Top returners: Isaiah Lahr, Nic Sanger, Luke Bothun, Ben Merry, Luke Kottum.

Season outlook: The Lions have good experience back as three starters return in Lahr, Sanger and Bothun. Lahr (13.9 points a game) and Sanger (12.1 ppg) both averaged in double figures last year while Bothun scored 7.3 ppg and Kottum added 5.9 ppg. With a strong core of players back, the Lions figure to contend for a division title in the SEC East.

Coach's comments: "I expect us to compete in every game this year," Bance said. "We bring back our top five scorers from last year and seven guys who played varsity minutes. I think we will at least contend to win the SEC East title and are looking to secure a home playoff game in the first round of the section tournament. We play in a tough conference and section, so every game will be a challenge for us, but I think we are up to the task."

SPRING GROVE
 
Head coach: Wade Grinde (25th season, 460-169 record).
 
Assistants: Al Lochner, Tom Vix.
 
Last season: The Lions are coming off an exceptional season. They finished 25-5 overall, 14-0 in the SEC, claimed the Section 1A title and placed third in the state in Class A.

Top returners: Junior Caden Grinde (G, 10.9 ppg, 3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.5 spg), senior Kyle Hagen.

Top newcomers: Seniors Caleb Nerstad, John Koch, Wyatt Murphy, Payton Leahy.

Season outlook: The Lions will have a new cast this season. Caden Grinde, who was All-Conference last season, is the only starter returning player. "We really have very little idea what this team is capable of," coach Wade Grinde said. "That is a good and bad situation to be in, but as the season develops we feel good about the potential.  We feel if everything falls into place we will be a team to contend with in the league and the section."

Coach’s comments: "In all my 25 years as a head coach, we have never been in a situation like this season," Wade Grinde said. "That makes it all the more exciting to see what the future holds for this group."
 
WEST DIVISION
 
GRAND MEADOW

Head coach: Dakotah Rostad (2nd season, 19-9 record).

Assistants: Austin O’Hare, Craig Knight.

Last season: The Superlarks finished 19-9 overall, 10-5 in the SEC and lost in the Section 1A quarterfinals to Rushford-Peterson.

Top returners: Colt Landers (Jr., F ,19.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Ethan Lane, (Sr., PG, 6.0 pg, 4.5 apg), Ethan Gilbert  (Sr., F), John Baldus  (Sr., G), Ben Kraft (Jr., F), Evan Oehlke (Jr., G), Blake Ludeman (Jr., G).

Top newcomers: Mason Geier (Jr., G), Taylor Glynn (Soph., G).

Season outlook: Grand Meadow has four returning starters in Colt Landers, Ethan Lane, Ethan Gilbert and John Baldus plus a couple of other key reserves. Landers was All-Conference a year ago while Ethan Lane was an honorable mention selection. They are part of an experienced Superlarks squad that could be a contender not only for an SEC title, but possibly a Section 1A crown as well. "There is a lot of excitement surrounding this team," coach Dakotah Rostad said. "The senior group in Grand Meadow does a great job of leading by example on and off the court and they are ready to go, which should lead to an exciting season."

Coach’s comments: "For our boys, there has not been much of an offseason," Rostad said. "They have been in the gym and the weight room preparing for the season since last spring. The way last year’s journey ended to R-P was a motivating factor and I believe the young men here are ready to get back to a high level of team basketball."

LEROY OSTRANDER
 
Head coach: Justin Stevens (1st season).
 
Assistant: Neal Bucknell.
 
Last season: The Cardinals finished 11-15 overall, 5-9 in the SEC and lost to Grand Meadow in the first round of Section 1A play.

Top returners: Seniors Riley Olson (18 ppg), Dakota Stoopes (10 ppg), sophomore Chase Johnson, junior Isaac Collier.

Top newcomers: Junior Andrew Lohuis, sophomores Tanner Olson, Levi Royston.

Season outlook: The Cardinals have a pair of strong starters back in Riley Olson, who was All-Conference last season, and Dakota Stoopes. The team will try to jell under first-year coach Justin Stevens, who expects the Cardinals to play hard every game. Depth could be a concern as the team has just three seniors and two juniors to go along with four sophomores. But the Cardinals could be primed for a winning season.

Coach’s comments: "I expect every night to be a battle as we will face a lot of good teams," Stevens said. "We just need to come out and compete every night and good things will happen. We have a group of hard-working student-athletes and (are) looking forward to a competitive season."
 
LYLE/PACELLI

Head coach: Scott Koenigs (13th year, 154-119 record).
 
Assistants: Paul Anderson, Brad Walter.
 
Last season: The youthful Athletics finished 9-14 overall, 6-9 in the SEC and lost in the first round of Section 1A play to Hayfield.

Top returners: Jed Nelson (Jr., 13.6 ppg), Zach Bollingberg (Jr., 10.1 ppg), Cole Walter (Jr., 7.3 ppg, 5.0 apg), Buay Koak (Frosh., 8.2 ppg), Mach Diang (Sr., 6.5 ppg), Tyson Anderson (Sr., 1.5 ppg), Sam Nelsen (Jr., 1.7 ppg).
 
Top newcomers: Juniors Jayden Lewis, Axel Aguilar, sophomore Jon Whalen.
 
Season outlook: The Athletics return four full-time and one part-time starters from a year ago and just one of those is now a senior. That includes a trio of juniors in second-team All-Conference pick Jed Nelson, honorable mention selection Cole Walter and Zach Bollingberg, who like Nelson averaged in double figures in scoring. With the talent and experience back, L/P should be in the hunt for a conference title and could even be a Section 1A contender. Veteran coach Scott Koenigs said it will just be a matter of "going out and competing hard every night."
 
Coach’s comments: "I believe that we will be a much improved basketball team," Koenigs said. "All the boys played a lot last year and are stronger and more confident this year. We will need to stay healthy as with most small schools we do not have a lot of size or depth. I think we will compete for the conference title and believe we can go deep into the section tournament."
 
RANDOLPH

Head coach: Kent Otte (6th season, 97-43 record).

Assistants: Dave Nybakke, Cory Lorenzen, Chris Woodcock.

Last season: The Rockets finished 26-3 overall, 14-1 in the SEC and lost to Spring Grove in the Section 1A title game.

Top returners: Nick Drinken (11.2 ppg), Dane Ehleringer, Isaac Stoesz.

Top newcomers: AJ Weidner, Devon Schultz, Alex Whitson, Clay Nielsen, Kaven Blonigan, Jack Roberge, Tyson Cooreman, Alec Otte.

Season outlook: The Rockets are short on experience after losing four players to graduation off of last year's stellar team. Nick Drinken, who was second-team All-Conference, started a year ago and just a couple other reserves are back. The Rockets will have good size in their lineup and coach Kent Otte still believes the team can be a factor in both the SEC and Section 1A race. 

Coach’s comments: "We have a great group of hard-working guys that have had recent success in all sports, and this will certainly continue to help us this season in basketball," coach Otte said. "We put the tallest team on the floor that I’ve coached in my six seasons." 

GOPHER CONFERENCE
 
BLOOMING PRAIRIE

Head coach: Nate Piller (5th season, 51-52 record).

Last season: The Blossoms finished 18-7 overall, 9-5 in the Gopher Conference and lost to Hayfield 50-48 in the Section 1A quarterfinals.

Top returners: Zach Archer (Sr., G), Gabe Hagen (Sr., F), Isaac Ille (Sr., G), Kaden Thomas (Sr., G), Karson Vigeland (Sr., F), Jarrett Larson (Sr., F), Parker Vaith (Sr., G), Zach Weber (Sr., F).

Top newcomers: Alex Baldwin (Sr., G), Alex Miller (Jr., G), Drew Kittelson (Soph., F).

Season outlook: The Blossoms have all five starters back from last season -- in top scorer Gabe Hagen, Zach Archer, Isaac Ille, Kaden Thomas and Karson Vigeland -- and more seniors to provide quality depth. They have high expectations following a third-place finish in the Gopher Conference last year and an close section loss to conference rival Hayfield. The Blossoms should be a contender for both a conference and Section 1A championship.

Coach's comments: "Getting the most out of every player is always my goal," Nate Piller said. "There’s no greater failure than to feel like we didn’t give everything. At the same time, there’s no greater sense of accomplishment than to look back and feel like we gave it everything we had and consistently gave our best. That’s the standard  year in and year out."

 HAYFIELD
 
Head coach: Chris Pack (20th season, 281-263 career record).
 
Assistants: John Kruger, Adam Schroeder, Tanner Kramer.
 
Last season: The Vikings finished 24-5 overall, tied for first in the Gopher Conference with a 13-1 record and lost 45-43 in the Section 1A semifinals to Spring Grove on a buzzer-beater.

Top returners: Luke Dudycha (Sr., 6-7, C, 11.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg), Ethan Slaathaug (Jr., 6-2, PG, 11.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.9 apg), Patrick Towey (Sr., 6-0, G, 9.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.9 apg), Isaac Matti (Fros., 6-1, G, 5.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.9 apg), Easton Fritcher (Soph., 6-0, F, 3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.1 apg), Brady Nelson (Sr., 6-1, G), Jake Risius (Sr., 6-0, G).

Top newcomers: Lucas Hansen (Jr., 6-4, C), James Watson (Sr., 5-9, G).

Season outlook: The Vikings return four of five starters and their top three reserves off a 24-5 team. They will have to find a way to replace Mason Tapp (now at St. Thomas) who was the Gopher Conference MVP when he averaged  20.7 ppg and 6.6 rpg last year. But with all of their experience and other quality players back, the Vikings should be in the mix for both the conference and section titles.

Coach’s comments: "(We) should be an athletic team with plenty of offensive firepower," Chris Pack said. "Need to improve on our on-ball defense, but should be a solid defensive team. We have a tougher schedule this year with five games against ranked Class A teams (Minneota, Springfield, Waterville-Elysian-Morristown twice, Rushford-Peterson), and also play Randolph, Grand Meadow, Blooming Prairie (twice)."
 
BIG NINE CONFERENCE
 
AUSTIN
 
Head coach: Kris Fadness (27th year, 23rd in Austin, 447-244 record).
 
Assistants: Joe Kroc, Jamaal Gibson, Parker Lyga, Emmanuel Younis.
 
Last season: The Packers are coming off an exceptional season. They finished 25-6 overall, and tied for the Big Nine Conference title with Mankato East with a 19-3 record. They won the Section 1AAA title for a second straight year and placed third in the state.

Top returners: Agwa Nywesh (Sr., 6-3, G, 16.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.1 apg), Teyghan Hovland (Jr., 6-3, F, 6.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Pierre Lilly (Sr., 5-11, G), Moses Idris (Sr., 6-3, F).

Top newcomers: Ogur Gari (Sr., 6-4, F), Tony Ciola (Sr., 6-1, F), Okey Okey (Jr., 6-2, G), Victor Idris (Soph., 6-4, F), Ethan Owens (Jr., 6-3, F), Jacob Venenga (Sr., 6-2, F). 

Season outlook: Agwa Nywesh, who was All-Conference last season, and Teyghan Hovland give the Packers a pair of talented and versatile players. Austin, which features a number of players in the 6-3 to 6-4 height range, will again be the team to beat in Section 1AAA and should also contend for a Big Nine title.

Coach’s comments: "We expect to be similar to the teams of the past couple of years," Kris Fadness said. "We should compete for conference and section titles. (I) like our depth and athleticism."
 
RED WING
 
Head coach: Drew Olinger (4th year, 16-70 record).
 
Assistants: Aaron Motz, Patrick Milani.
 
Last season: The Wingers finished 4-24 overall, 2-20 in the Big Nine and lost to top-seeded Austin in the Section 1AAA semifinals.

Top returners: Sophomore Deso Buck (10.2 ppg), senior Dontray Johnson (7.6 ppg).

Top newcomers: Sophomore Denval Atkinson, senior Henry Davig.

Season outlook: The Wingers are hoping to improve on last year's win total, both overall and in the Big Nine and know they will have to be on the top of their game to compete in league play. The Wingers and the rest of Section 1AAA will again be chasing Austin.

Coach’s comments: "We are a very young team that lacks varsity basketball experience," coach Drew Olinger said. "With that (in mind), this group is incredibly coachable and they constantly want to improve on all aspects of the game. We look forward to playing our best basketball in February and March."
 
-- Guy N. Limbeck

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