Rugby's boys basketball team takes to the court
Rugby coach Mike Heidlebaugh said the first few practices of the boys basketball season got to be too intense, and coaches needed to take things down a notch or two.
Yes, it’s a long season, and this unproven Panther team has to pace itself.
However, Heidlebaugh has been encouraged by that desire and businesslike approach his team has exhibited early.
“These kids are focused,” he said. “They’re fired up and anxious to get going.“
The team appears long on enthusiasm but short on experience. No starters return from last season’s 15-8 region qualifying team. And just two saw regular minutes, seniors Jeremy Johnston and Bryant Halvorson.
Johnston averaged about eight points and 16 minutes a game, while Halvorson average three points and about 10 minutes of action. Both provide a perimeter scoring threat and will be relied on to give the team point production away from the bucket.
The inside game will rely on Tommy Schwartz, Mike Houim and Larry Rozmarynowski. They don’t have a lot of size, but they are not afraid to go strong to the basket, Heidlebaugh said. Jason Goetz, Levi Schaan, Josh Houim, and Jacob Stadum will also see time on the court. Goetz has quickness and the size to penetrate to the basket.
Improvements must be made in a few key areas, including rebounding. The team doesn’t have the big bodies in the paint it possessed last season, so Rugby will have to rely on good position, hard work and technique to win the battle under the glass. The team must also shoot the ball better and prove it can hit open shots away from the bucket and pound the ball inside as well. The team’s free throw shooting must also get better.
Rugby doesn’t have much depth, so avoiding injuries is a must. The squad doesn’t have that go-to player returning, so a leader or leaders are going to have to emerge.
The team may be green, but it’s a squad that understands the game and anticipates well, Heidlebaugh said. And good basketball sense can often make up for a lot.
The Panthers finished second in the district regular season standings a season ago and advanced to regionals for a fourth straight season.
However, the team will have to overachieve to get back to regional play. Preseason polls have the Panthers near the bottom of the district standings.
Velva is the coaches’ pick to win the district, while Towner-Granville-Upham and Drake-Anamoose bring back a good nucleus of players, according to Heidlebaugh. Rugby is going to be in a pack that includes perennial frontrunners Bottineau and Dunseith and is hoping to get back to the top tier of the district.
“We’re a big question mark right now, but we have some potential with this group,” he said.
The squad opens the season tonight, Dec. 13, against region champion Minot Ryan. The Panthers then travel to Harvey for the annual CNDC Tournament later this week.
Seniors: Bryant Halvorson, Jeremy Johnston, Larry Rozmarynowski, Tommy Schwartz, Jacob Stadum; Juniors: Cody Boucher, Josh Houim, Mike Houim, Jacob Nelson; Sophomores: Jason Goetz, Eric Kuntz, Alex McClintock, Riley Olsen, Mitch Roerick, Levi Schaan, Thomas Swanson, Eric Burns; Freshmen: Andrew Hershey, Jarett Lovcik, Zach Leer, Brady Tuchscherer, David McAtee, Erik Wangler, Riley Wangler, Jayden Welk
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