Winner High School boys basketball team will open the season on Dec. 8 at home when they host Wagner.
The five returning lettermen are Justus Gregg, Joren Bruun, Shea Connot, Brandon Volmer and Phillip Jorgensen.
There are 34 athletes out for basketball. The only senior on the team is Gregg. The rest of the team is made up of 8 juniors, 13 sophomores and 12 freshmen.
The Warriors lost seven seniors who saw a lot of playing time in their career at WHS. The seniors who graduated are Drew DeMers, Cameron Kuil, Trevor Bertram, Isaac Naasz, Chase Kingsbury, Wyatt Ewing and Luke Engel.
Winner’s record last year was 12-10 and they made it to the Regional Semifinal, falling to Little Wound.
Coach Brett Gardner says this will be a different year due to the team’s youth. There are no returning starters. “We have a lot of depth and a lot of basketball athleticism. We have a bunch of young guys who are competing with each other for a spot on the team,” said Gardner. “This year is totally different which is an exciting thing. We are hard works, play the right way, the Warrior way and get after it,” said Gardner.
The Warriors will have to defend against teams that are bigger than they are. “We will have to use our quickness and basketball athleticism to help us defend and the offense will take care of itself,” said the coach. “We will pride ourselves for the fourth straight year of taking care of the defensive end.” The goal of the Warriors is to hold teams under 50 points.
The Warriors have nice guards who can shoot and competitive posts.
Gardner says practice has been competitive with players getting after it. In practice, the coaching staff has put in the defense. For Winner, the defense comes first and the the coaches slowly work in the offense.
The team has been working on skill sets, fundamentals and footwork—finishing a layup with the correct feet.
What Gardner likes about this year’s team is that they are competitive but they also like each other and hang out together.
“Once players develop their role and buy into that role we can get better and play our best basketball,” explained the coach.
The team’s goal every year is to be playing the best basketball by region and make it to the Sweet 16.
This is the second year for the Sweet 16 in Class A. “I like the Sweet 16,” says Gardner. “I was kind of torn on it but the more I thought about it and watched games it brought the best out of everyone. It does take away from the regionals but it will get the best eight teams to the state tournament.”
The WHS coach says the top teams in Class A will be Tea, returning state champ; Madison Sioux Valley, Red Cloud and Pine Ridge.
The Warriors play in the Big Dakota and SESD Conference.
This is Gardner’s fourth year as head coach in Winner and sixth overall.
Trent Olson will be the assistant coach and is starting his 14th year as the assistant coach.
The 2017-2018 schedule includes:
Dec. 8—Wagner, home
Dec. 15—Miller, home
Dec. 16—at Sully Buttes
Dec. 21—Bon Homme, home
Dec. 22—at Parkston
Dec. 28—Snowball Classic in Winner
Jan. 2—at Chamberlain
Jan. 5—at Bennett County
Jan. 6—at Gregory
Jan. 9—Valentine, home
Jan. 13—At Garretson
Jan. 18—Pine Ridge, home
Jan. 23—at Todd Co Jan. 26—at Mt. Vernon/Plankinton
Feb. 3—CEB, home
Feb. 6—at St. Francis
Feb. 9—McLaughlin, home
Feb. 13—at Platte/Geddes
Feb. 16—at Mobridge/Pollock
Feb. 19—Crow Creek, home
March 6—Sweet 16
March 15-17—State A in Rapid City