'The future is very bright': K-M basketball sees signs of growth after 11-win campaign
BYRON – Before the basketball season, second-year Kasson-Mantorville coach Nick Pocius brought a brick into a team meeting. Every player and coach signed it.
It signified the foundation that was being built.
They were doing it together.
In Pocius’ first season at the helm, K-M won just four games. It finished the year 4-23. On Tuesday, Byron handed the KoMets a 70-50 loss in the Section One, Class AAA quarterfinals. K-M finished Year 2 under Pocius with 11 wins.
The foundation is being built. The KoMets nearly tripled their wins total from from last season.
"I think the future is very bright for Kasson-Mantorville basketball," Pocius said moments after K-M suffered the season-ending loss. "We haven’t gotten the Ws all the time, but I do think we’re a competitive team and eventually the outcomes will go our way. You just have to keep working."
The 2019-20 campaign wasn’t easy for Pocius and the K-M program.
The KoMets suffered six single-digit losses this season. Injuries and illnesses plagued Pocius’ roster all season long.
Leading scorer Jace Bigelow didn’t play against Byron due to an injury, and Byron took advantage.
Bigelow, a junior sharpshooter, led the team in scoring and eclipsed 1,000 career points with a 37-point outing in a win over Zumbrota-Mazeppa on Feb. 19. When Bigelow was on the floor, K-M was a dangerous club.
"It’s a big adjustment for them to not have Jace, the leading scorer, so we made some adjustments," Byron coach Kyle Finney said. "He’s a really good player. When he’s not out there, we started to help a little more. We went under more screens than we normally would have done."
There was only one game all season where K-M had its full roster available. That was the season opener against Red Wing that the KoMets won 71-48.
"It’s been a rollercoaster," Pocius said. "It’s been up and down on an upwards trajectory. I’m really proud of them."
The lack of continuity hurt the record this year, but it gave some young guys valuable experience for the future. Sophomore point guard Jordan Klepel really emerged this season. Klepel nailed two 3-pointers and scored eight points against Byron.
Another sophomore, Camden Holacek, showcased his offensive arsenal and finished with eight points. Holecek, Klepel and Bigelow will form a dangerous backcourt next season.
"It’s massive," Pocius said. "We had a lot of young guys play today and we’ve had a bunch of young guys all season."
But the foundation wouldn’t have been set without the buy-in from the six seniors. Carter Nelson, Jordan Kern, Easton Knoll, Jeron Sandeno,Tyler Wohlfiel and Alex Jennissen played their last game for K-M on Tuesday, but their impact won’t be forgotten.
"I ended the postgame talk (Tuesday) by saying, ‘You (seniors) made this foundation,’" Pocius said. "Next year, I think we’re going to be taking another step. I can’t wait to see what the seniors do in life because they’re going to be awesome."
The foundation has been set. Next year, K-M expects to win at a high level.