Posted 12/08/15 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
Area boys basketball teams open their seasons next week at Stanley High School’s annual Lions tournament.
The head coaches in Tioga, Ray and Divide County all said they anticipate that District 16 will be more flush with talent than it was in previous years.
The Pirates have some shoes to fill as they hope to improve upon last season’s 12-11 record, as one starter graduated and another transferred to Stanley.
“We’ve got six guys coming back that have started,” head coach Justin Nelson said. “We need a seventh, eighth, ninth player, and I think we have them, but they need to get up to speed still.”
Nelson said his returning players have excelled in adopting an uptempo offensive style, as Tioga led the district last season in points per game.
“I think we’ll be able to move up and down the floor really well,” Nelson said.
But the Pirates also allowed more points than they scored, and Nelson said his players need to do a better job of suppressing their opponents’ scoring threats.
“We’ve got to be disciplined on defense,” Nelson said.
Tioga’s first home game is Jan. 4 vs. Berthold.
The Jays return only one starter from last season’s 9-14 team, although the younger players saw significant varsity minutes in tournament play.
“We have a few kids that got a lot of experience in the districts, but we are going to be inexperienced,” head coach Michael Bergstrom said.
The key on offense, Bergstrom said, will be if his team can score not just in the paint but also from the perimeter.
“Hopefully they can stretch the defenses out a little bit,” he said. “I think we’ve got guys who can hurt them both inside and outside.
With any luck, Bergstrom said, the Jays could pull ahead of some more experienced teams if they improve enough and play their best basketball at the end of the season when it matters most.
“I’d like it if we can fly under the radar this year,” Bergstrom said. “Other teams might not be expecting us to do much.”
Ray hosts Powers Lake on Jan. 4 to open its home slate.
Divide County Maroons
With an abundance of height among this year’s Maroons, head coach Rodney Johnson said filling the shoes of their graduated center will be easier than replacing their injured guard.
“Our guard play is our weakest point,” Johnson said. “We need to focus on getting the ball over the halfcourt line, because every team is going to press us.”
Johnson said five students have joined the team this season, which could provide much-needed depth if they can earn varsity minutes.
“The team has good work ethic,” Johnson said. “We’re going to get better with every practice and every game.”
Despite that good news for a team that finished 1-20 last season, Johnson said climbing out of the proverbial cellar may still prove difficult in a district that looks to be stronger throughout.
“This is the best team I’ve had out of my three years, but every team in the district is going to be good,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping we can get a few decent district wins going into the tournament.”
DC’s season opener is at home Friday vs. Powers Lake.
Area coaches unanimously selected Stanley and Kenmare as the two teams they’ll be chasing at the top of the district standings.
“Stanley is No. 1 easily, and Kenmare is on their heels at No. 2,” Johnson said.
“I think Kenmare’s at the top still, because they have some pieces back,” Nelson said. “Then Stanley; they’ve got some good kids over there.”
“Kenmare’s going to be better than they were last year, and Stanley is going to be better,” Bergstrom said. “Stanley is going to be really loaded.”