Tri-County 2019-20 Prep Boys Basketball Preview
Although all of the Tri-County's boys' basketball teams lost quality players to graduation from last season, they return enough good players to be competitive for the 2019-20 season.
Osseo-Fairchild will defend their WIAA Division 4 sectional,regional and West Cloverbelt Conference championships at 14-0, 24-3 overall. Despite the departure of seven seniors on the team: Logan Muhlhern (the league's leading scorer and rebounder at 27 points per game and 12 rebounds per contest), fellow All-WCC member Cory Myers, Caden Boettcher, Alex Watenpuhl, Sam Jacobson, Cooper Ward and Sawyer Freiburg, OFHS head coach Tim Popple believes those players returning, even with limited varsity experience and height, will be enough for the Thunder to have a successful season.
"It will take some time to develop team chemistry," Popple said. "But we have a team of very good shooters, especially from the outside, who can run the floor well and are mentally tough and determined to get back to state."
Top players for the Thunder this season include senior Ryan Myhers, who received honorable mention all WCC along with junior Garrett Koxlien, and senior Riley McIlquham.
Fall Creek will look to knock off the Thunder from their lofty heights. The Crickets finished tied for second in the WCC at 8-6 (15-9 overall) and won a regional title last season before losing to O-F in sectional semfinals. Gone from that team were all-conference players Joey Kinderman, Brady Nicks and David Anderson. Returning lettermen include senior guard Mason Denning and junior forward Luke Olson. He's formed a nice 1-2 punch inside so far this season (FC is 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the league after downing Eleva-Strum and Osseo-Fairchild this week) with fellow junior, 6-5 center Jayden Fitch as both are averaging double figures.
"This is probably one of the most inexperienced teams we've had in a while but there's a lot of potential with their size, athletic ability and shooting," FC head coach Rick Storlie said. "We have to learn to take care of the basketball and play consistently and develop playing experience.. Hopefully by the holiday break we'll have those things taken care of."
The Crickets also hope to develop some depth with players like junior guard Nathan Sorenson, who came off the bench to score 10 key points vs. O-F, along with senior forward Isaiah Katz, junior guard Teigen Ploeckelman and senior forward Gabe Schmidt.
Augusta had a successful season, finishing 15-7 overall and a game in back of Melrose-Mindoro in the Dairyland Large standings at 11-4. The Beavers lost four starters from that team in Tanner Alix, Ryan Grunewald, Grant Goodell and Logan Brown. Returning starers are All-Dairyland Conference player junior Andrew Perkovich, the team's top returning scorer, along with with seniors Jacob Engstrom and Aaron Dorf.
"Our challenge is our lack of game experience," Augusta Head Coach Chris Schmitt said. "But we do have a lot of senior experience. We have players who have been in our program for four seasons, know how we play and what's expected of them. And we have a lot of them which means we'll have good depth too. And with the league so wide open as far as a favorite, we'll be in contention again for the top."
The seniors Schmitt speaks of are Traven Fabian, Gregor Willms, Camron Stensen and Cole Stensen.
Eleva-Strum will look to improve upon a 7-16 overall season (6-9 in the Large Dairyland). While the Cardinals will not have graduated all-conference player Isaac Larabee, and top rebounders Connor Wundjue and Matthew Tomasello, E-S does return two double-figure scorers in junior Nick Higley and senior Cade McSorley.