Madison County teams are preparing for the upcoming 2013-14 high school basketball season. Many teams return experienced players and leadership. Here is how the teams are looking this pre-season.
Harrison-Willow Creek Wildcats
Coach Lisa Cooper’s girl’s basketball squad returns three all-conference players this year and sports a number of other players who look to gain more playing time this season and add to the team’s depth. Jaci Nesbit and Britt Cooper earned all-conference honors last year and were also all-state second and first team, respectively. Kristen White is the third all-conference player coming back for the Wildcats. The Wildcats, who finished 16-7 last year, add transfer student Brooke Griffis to their roster. Griffis joins Addie Nesbit, Alecia Panagakis, Megan Skillman, Taya DeFrance, Gabby Arcangeli, Hailey Hokanson and Sierra Panagakis as players to watch during the season. Harrison-Willow Creek placed second at the district tournament last year. The team graduated two seniors—Becca White and Tori Wilson.
“We should have a strong team this year,” Coach Cooper said. “We will have skilled players at all positions and a quick defense.”
After graduating five players last year, Harrison-Willow Creek boy’s basketball coach Jason Roed is looking to returners Garrett Petersen, John Brennan, Brett Petersen and Josh Nye to step up their game. G. Petersen and Brennan are both seniors.
“They both bring a great amount of experience and leadership to this team. We want to be a competitive team with great defensive intensity. Our younger players will need to fill some roles that are open after graduating five seniors last year,” Roed said.
Those younger players include Jed Fike, Chas Buus and Daly Nesbit. The Wildcats look to improve upon their 8-14 record from last year.
Nick Burgess takes over the girl’s basketball team as coach to a team that last year was very young and did not have much varsity experience. Now with more time on the floor under their belts, the Mustangs will show other teams just what they learned from the previous season that saw them battle within the district, but fail to advance far in the post season. The Mustangs finished fifth in the district last season with an overall record of 10-10.
“We are looking forward to a very exciting year of Lady Mustang basketball,” Burgess said. “We have 18 girls out and they are eager to start the new season.”
Of those 18, five are returning seniors. The Mustangs lost five players from last year’s roster, so Burgess said the team would look to fill those spots. He added that the girls are hungry and working hard toward the upcoming season. A smaller sized team again this season, Burgess said the Mustangs will be speedy and play tough defense and fast paced basketball.
Size, athleticism and experience is on the Ennis Mustangs’ side this boy’s basketball season, but coach Zach Jepson said that does not mean they can count out any of the other teams in the talented 8-C district.
“One of our goals is to finish as the no. 1 seed going into the district tournament. To accomplish that, we will have to unseat Twin Bridges as reigning district champs and hold off a very talented and deep Manhattan Christian team. Gardiner and Shields Valley will look to challenge for one of the top five seeds as well,” Jepson said. He added that Lone Peak, Harrison, and White Sulphur Springs are well coached and have shown great improvement the past couple of seasons. Jepson also said fans can bet that teams like Sheridan, West Yellowstone and Lima will look to knock off a top team come tournament time.
The veteran team returns seniors Connor Sullivan, Braydon McKitrick, Wes Goodman, Reid Farnes, Colten Clark and Chad Johnerson after a 21-5 overall season last year. Juniors Walker McKitrick and Wiley Leo add depth for the Mustangs who graduated all-state player Dalton Bullock and team captain Tucker Ott. Jepson said newcomers Kyler Elliott, Troy Fortner and Gabe Snider are also players to watch this season.
“We look forward to the challenges that we will face, overcoming them with a “team” first mentality, and having success come tournament time,” Jepson said.
The Mustangs finished third at the district tournament and third at the divisional tournament after falling to Arlee in a challenge game and failing to qualify for the state tournament.
Wendy Fabel moves up from being an assistant coach for the Panthers last season to head girl’s basketball coach this year. The Panthers closed out the 2012-13 season with an overall record of 5-18. They lost standout Brooke Lueck to graduation. Fabel credited her as an asset on and off the court.
April Degel is the lone returning starter for the young team. She is a junior and eldest member of the team that boasts three sophomores, four freshmen and two eighth-graders.
“Our team this year is an amazing group of girls who will play with no limits and improve every time they are on the court. They are a young team and with them comes a refreshing new outlook on the program this year,” Fabel said.
The team’s youth and inexperience means the Panthers are approaching the season with a bit of a “small ball” style and hopes to grow from there, according to Fabel. She said the team will be extensively reviewing motion offense and other options that will work well for the younger girls.
First year boy’s basketball coach Chad Elser said he is excited to work with the Panthers to finish better than the team’s 3-16 overall record from last year.
“We hope to have a fun year and improve upon last season’s record,” Elser said. “The boys have been positive and are hard workers.”
Returning for the Panthers are seniors Seth Green, Cheyenne Fuller and Brant Marsh. Senior Xavier Harris also joins the team. Juniors Sam Wood and Colter Kentworthy gained playing experience last year and return as well.
The Panthers graduated Brandon Burke, Mike Tilstra and Eric Browne last year.
Twin Bridges Falcons
The Falcons’ girl’s basketball team earned a repeat trip to the state tournament last year under head coach Rob Lott’s guidance. They placed third in the tournament and were runners up the previous year. Both years the Falcons’ season ended to the Belt Lady Huskies from the north. The Falcons continue to be competitive and successful year after year despite graduating standout players like Peyton Ferris and Hannah Konen the past two years. Harrison-Willow Creek put the pressure on the Falcons in the district championship game, but the Falcons kept cool and pulled out the victory, which has been typical of the team in recent years.
Matt Ashley has a lot to work with as he coaches the boy’s Falcon team that advanced from the district tournament to the divisional tournament last year. The Falcons, who ended the season 19-5 overall, lost their opening-round game at divisionals, but remained competitive and notched a win before losing out.
“We lost a large group of seniors last year to graduation, but have a strong group ready to step up,” Ashley said. That group includes seniors Jerricho Broksie and Garrett Armstrong as well as a large group of juniors.
Ashley said the team will play physical and aggressive defense and has to make good decisions with the ball on offense. He added that he sees a lot of potential in the team this season and in the next few.