Boys hoops action heating up the hardwood

The 2013-14 Republic-Times Winter Sports Preview hits stands Dec. 4, including: preview stories, schedules and team photos. You can purchase boys basketball team photos in the R-T Media Store today!

Boys basketball action tipped off last week, with local teams playing in Thanksgiving tournaments around the region.

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The Pirates may have a small team, but returning players Zach Williams, Eric Smith, Ryan Unterseh, Hunter Brewer and Matt Hemenway bring experience to head coach Dan Crossin’s team.

Although their record on the season stands at 1-5, their team goal of winning 10 games this year is still within reach, as long as the team utilizes their quickness and puts in the effort, Crossin said.

Williams leads the team on offense so far this season, with 66 points, followed by Unterseh with 53. On defense, Seidler has 8 rebounds, followed by Berning and Hemenway with 6 each.

“The improvement needed is discipline,” he said, adding that a major key to success for his group will be for their guards to take control of games.

The Pirates next play Dec. 10, when they travel to Lebanon.


Coming off a 15-14 season in 2012, the Eagles will be looking to utilize their size as much as possible this year. Head coach Mark Sandstrom will rely on returning players Cole Foster (6’5), Korbin Farmer (6’5), Zach Mathews (6’0) and  Trey Search (5’9) and the experience they bring to the team.

“Cole is one of the better low post players in the area,” Sandstrom said.

Foster led the Eagles offense in their season opener Friday against Freeburg with 15 points.

“I think Cole could have a monster year, so we need to put him in situations to be successful,” Sandstrom said.”

Search will be counted on to provide points while the defense will be led by Mathews, who can also add points to the scoreboard.

Farmer, a sophomore, may be the most well-rounded player on the Eagles.

“He is an excellent rebounder and I think a lot of people will be surprised by his improvements on the offensive end,” Sandstrom said.

In the Eagles’ second game, against Piasa SW in the Lebanon Tournament, Farmer led scoring with 23 points as well as 19 rebounds.

“We also need our inexperienced guards to transition quickly to the speed of the varsity game, which I am confident they will be able to do,” Sandstrom said. “Taking care of the ball and perimeter shooting will be key as well.

“We definitely feel we have a lot of pieces in order to be successful,” Sandstrom said.

But to complete the puzzle, the pieces must stay healthy, something the Eagles have struggled with in recent years.

“Our kids are working hard, have great attitudes, and perform their roles”, Sandstrom said. “I’m excited to see the growth of our team throughout the season.”

The Eagles took on College Prep at Madison Tuesday night in the Lebanon tourney, and will play again Saturday in Lebanon.


Fourth-year Tigers head coach Doug Orcutt’s young squad is gearing up to begin conference play, sitting on an 0-5 record on the young season.

“Basically, we have no varsity experience from last year,” Orcutt said. “They’re getting their feet wet and figuring it out.”

Scoring is his team’s strong point, he said, but the defense is suffering as the young players adjust to the speed of the varsity game.

Orcutt said Joey Mirabal is his team’s go-to guy for scoring, with Brett Aldridge serving as a good second option. Aldridge, the Dupo football quarterback this past fall, didn’t play basketball last year.

Sophomore center Tony Cozart was injured last year, but Orcutt hopes he will be a big contributor to the team this year. And two freshmen, including Austin Francis, will also be looked at to contribute on the hardwood.

After playing in the Metro-East Lutheran Turkey Tip-Off last week, the Tigers’ next game is Dec. 10, when they travel to Marissa.


The basketball dynasty enjoyed by Hawks fans and fostered by head coach Dennis Rueter is so far this season playing the way fans have grown accustomed to seeing, with a balanced offense and plenty of early success.

“We know we’re going to have a pretty good team,” Rueter said. “We might have a really good team if we can get some things right.”

After taking first place in the Metro East Lutheran tournament last week, their record stands at 5-0, and the senior-laden team shows no signs of slowing down their pace.

Wes Degener and Nick Row are tied with 65 points each to lead the team’s offense, followed by Mitch Meyer with 46. Row and Degener are also leading on the boards, with 34 and 31 rebounds, respectively.

“Those two are a pretty important part of the game. We need to stay healthy and we need to get good playing from those two,” Rueter said.

After finishing last season with a regional title and a record of 25-7, the coach’s goals for his team this season are to the point.

“We just want to get better every day and we want to play as good basketball as we can play and have fun with it.”

The Hawks will travel to Pinckneyville Friday night.


The Bulldogs were a last-second shot away from winning the Mississippi Valley Conference, last season, and that near miss still stings, according to head coach CJ Cruser.

“We really felt as if it was ours last year but we just couldn’t finish the job,” Cruser said. “We feel we have a shot again this year as well but it will be difficult as the league is getting much stronger each year.

“We would like to play for a regional championship this year as well. 1975 was the last regional championship. We would like to improve on our 17-11 from a year ago. All these will be challenging.”

Cruser brings back four starters from last year’s team. Senior Shane Lenhardt (6’3) was the leading scorer last season before he injured his knee in January. Senior Daniel Gardner, a 5’9 point guard, is a third year started and looks to be Cruser’s leading assist man, averaging six a game last year. Junior Rick Wiegand (6’0) started all last season, and senior Zach Schaab (6’2) started the last 12 games of the season.

After losing Justin Kretchmer to graduation, the ‘Dogs miss his 6’7 post presence.

“We got a lot of easy baskets from the post that we will need to find in other ways this year,” Cruser said. “Our defense was very good with Justin alternating shots and getting almost everything shot on the rim.

“This year we will need to get our easy baskets via the transition game with all of our quickness coming back this year. Our defense needs to come together and it will be a group effort on the glass this year.”

The Bulldogs’ 0-3 record this season is not indicative of the ball they are playing. Although they went winless in their Thanksgiving round robin tourney last week, they could easily be 3-0; two of their three losses came by only two points.

“We played so many young guys last year that I feel as if we are a veteran team this year,” Cruser said. “I feel we have depth this year from having to play younger guys last year.

“We have shown vast improvements from the beginning to the end of the season the past two seasons. I expect Shane Lenhardt to get better as the season goes with his knee injury. I feel Daniel Gardner is primed for his best season yet. Rick Wiegand turned heads last year and his development as a basketball player is still growing. I have three seniors left that have a winning attitude going into this season — Zach Schaab, Johnny Albers and Reid Hoffman. Each of these three will win a game for us this year and lead us in scoring at least once.”

So far, the ‘Dogs’ leading scorers are Ryan Aycock with 31 points, Schaab with 26 and Lenhardt with 19.

Cruser’s keys to seeing his team realize their goals this season will be staying healthy and winning turnovers.

“We have several (players) coming back from injuries so if our health stays good that will be a huge difference this year,” he said. “We have been prone to turning the ball over the last two seasons. On the other hand we have difficulty turning the opposition over. We need to create many more turnovers that will help create more scoring chances for us and we need to be better decision makers on the court this year. If those two things happen we can be better than last year.”

The ‘Dogs’ next game is Friday in Jerseyville.

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Andrea F.D. Saathoff

Andrea is a graduate of Gibault High School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the University of Missouri Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Education. She lives in Columbia with her husband and their twin toddler sons. When she isn't cheering on St. Louis Cardinals baseball or riding the emotional roller coaster of Mizzou Tigers football, she enjoys attending and participating in the many family events the county has to offer. email:

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