P-E-M again the team to beat

After two straight third-place finishes in Class AA, it should come as no surprise that Plainview-Elgin-Millville is highly ranked in boys basketball at the start of the season.

In fact this year the Bulldogs enter this season ranked No. 1 in the state in Class AA.

"That surprised me a little bit," P-E-M coach Kirk Thompson said.

Just a small surprise, however, as the Bulldogs have two returning all-conference Three Rivers players in stellar Cole Olstad and Landon Flies, a pair of 6-foot-4 seniors.

"We don't worry about rankings," Thompson said. "It's not our focus."


Indeed. The Bulldogs are just striving to win games. And they have been nearly unstoppable over the past three years, compiling an 85-8 record, including 59-1 in Three Rivers Conference play. Two of those losses were in state semifinal games and another came in the 2008 Section One championship game.

"I don't think we're worried about our ranking at the moment," Olstad said. "Just a number, I guess.

"My goal is to win," he added. "It's a tough road to get there (to the state tournament)."

The 6-foot-4 Olstad has been a staple for the Bulldogs the past four years. On the varsity since the eighth grade, he has helped guide the Bulldogs to three state tournaments. He is a three-time all-conference player and last year was all-state. He has averaged more than 20 points a game in each of the past two seasons and enters his senior year with 2,121 points.

"I've been in a lot of big games and it helps," Olstad said.

"Cole is a player that is real difficult to defend because he an score inside or outside," Thompson said. "He has real long arms which makes him a pretty good defender as well. His overall skill is even better this year than it was last year at this time."

Olstad has already committed to play college ball at Concordia-St. Paul, which is a family tradition. He will follow brother, Clay, and two sisters who all played basketball at Concordia. Cole and the rest of the Bulldogs must adjust to basketball without Clay Olstad. He played six years of varsity basketball and helped P-E-M reach three state tournaments.

"It's definitely different," Cole Olstad said of playing without his brother.


The Bulldogs should adjust, however. They could feature a lineup that starts four 6-4 players along with point guard Cory Speer. Flies averaged 10.2 points a game last year while 6-4 juniors Sam Ruth and Chase Montgomery also provide the Bulldogs with good size.

Thompson admits that opponents usually get fired up to face the Bulldogs, but being up emotionally and being up to the task physically are two different challenges.

"With the success of the past few years, I feel the kids are confident with themselves and with their teammates going into the year," Thompson said.

The Bulldogs can expect a number of strong challengers as they begin a quest for a fourth straight Three Rivers title and a third straight section crown. Caledonia is a strong Three Rivers and Section One foe.

Other section contenders could be Lourdes, Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Lake City and Byron. P-E-M is unlikely to take any team for granted.

"There are a lot of tough teams out there that could beat us," Olstad said. "It's a tough section."

"I have a goal for the coach," Thompson said, referring to himself. "That is that we improve each day."

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