Young Gering, Mitchell boys’ teams look for answers in openers
     2012-11-29      By Terry Gaston   
Photos by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen
Gering Bulldog Zac Bibb makes room for a clear shot to the basket despite Crawford challengers during Saturday's preseason scrimmage at Mitchell.
 
MITCHELL – In the case of the Gering and Mitchell boys’ basketball teams and coaches, thank goodness for the preseason Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame Jamboree.

Both Gering coach Randy Plummer and Mitchell assistant coach Shawn Harvey said that their respective teams needed the Jamboree event, which took place Saturday night at Mitchell High School, to learn what their squads need before they each open regular-season play Thursday in the Western Conference Tournament.

Plummer, who has to replace all five starters and two strong bench players from last season’s state-qualifying team, said Monday that the Bulldogs have been short-handed in practices and were again for their scrimmages against Mitchell and Crawford on Saturday.

And with the Bulldogs scheduled to open the season Thursday night at defending Wyoming state champion Torrington, Plummer is taking more of a wait-and-see, precautionary approach into the teams’ Western Conference Tournament opener.

“We’re pretty much starting over, but we have a few guys back with a little varsity experience,” Plummer said. “It’s going to be a learning process."

On the Jamboree scrimmages, Plummer said, “I thought we executed pretty well and wet ried to stay as organized as we could every trip down. Now tonight (Monday), we were missing three guys to injuries or illness and so we couldn’t work on the things we need to have ready for Thursday.

"I am actually pretty nervous, but that’s the way it goes, especially this time of year when there are a lot of illnesses floating around.”

What the Bulldogs lack in experience, they compensate for in depth.
“We have two guys who are battling for each position, so we have 10 guys who are pretty good,” Plummer said.

He said if he has everyone healthy, Plummer would field a starting lineup that includes senior forwards Zac Bibb and Austin Ferguson, both of whom saw some varsity time last year, as did senior point guard Walker Britsch. Also back with limited experience are junior guard Christian Groskopf and junior post man Grant Olsson.

But right behind the starters are five solid up-and-comers that include sophomore point guard Joseph Palomo, junior guards Dillon DeMott and Gage Winkler, junior forward Isaiah Wilson and junior post Taylor Nelson.

“We hope to have the best group of guys together,” Plummer said. “Regardless of how many guys we lost, we are still going to be a defensive-based team. We’ve got some good components; it will be just how they respond to the varsity game.”

Gering plays Torrington at about 7.p.m. Thursday, following the girls’ game. The Bulldogs will play either Scottsbluff or Chadron on Friday at 8 p.m. If Gering wins at Torrington, then the Bulldogs will be in the championship semifinals at Western Nebraska’s Cougar Palace. If Torrington wins, Gering will play the Scottsbluff-Chadron loser at Scottsbluff High School in Friday’s consolation bracket.
Class C1 Mitchell faces a tough test in going to Sidney for its season-opening and first-round Western Conference Tournament game. The Tigers and Red Raiders meet at 7 p.m. before action moves to Scottsbluff for semifinal action.

Harvey said the Jamboree helped he, head coach Kirk Kuxhausen and varsity assistant Jason Gregory to decipher what they have in the Tigers’ lineup against competition.

“There were some positives and of course some negatives in what the kids need to work on,” Harvey said. “The advantage of the exhibition game is it gives you a good look at what you have against another teams.

“We lost some pretty good starters, but we have a large junior class where the kids have either started or otherwise played some varsity time.”

The Tigers return juniors Jamie Fegler and Bo McVay from last year’s starting lineup. Robbie Burke, Mitchell’s lone senior on the team, returns with some starting experience, as do juniors Adam Schlotthauer and Nick Harriger.

Other returning varsity team members with limited experience include juniors Garrett Braman and Tate Harvey. Sophomore Alex Morales moved up to the varsity roster late last season, and classmate Antonio Barrios will be on the varsity roster as well.

“Our defense is pretty strong, and we should be able to move the ball up and the down the court,” Shawn Harvey said. “These kids have played a long time together and should be a good half-court team.”
Harvey said the Tigers’ strategy, as the smallest school in the Western Conference Tournament, will be to try to maintain the tempo so they don’t get run out of the gym.

“We felt we ran the ball fairly well (Saturday), but against these larger, Class B opponents we will probably have to slow it down,” he said.

“We are going into this that the boys understand how they need to play, but we think they will be up for the competition. There are two or three teams, if we get to play any of them, that we can play with.”

Mitchell will play either Omaha Skutt or Alliance on Friday at 6:30 p.m. If they win Thursday, the Tigers will play at WNCC. A loss to Sidney will put Mitchell in the consolation semifinals at Scottsbluff High.

“They see the advantages of playing at that level of competition, because it will help us get ready for Gering next week (at Gering on Thursday) and hopefully make a run at the Western Trails Conference title,” Harvey said.


Mitchell's Nick Harringer preps for a shot as Ram defenders respond as Tiger teammate jamie Fegler eyes the action during Saturday's pre-season contest against Crawford.

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