Boys bring more experience to court to face tough conference

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home boys basketball looks to improve this season after a tough campaign last season, when the Huskies went 2-22 and finished last in 4A’s Oregon West Conference.

“Obviously, last year was a down year for us, so we’re hoping for kind of a bounce-back year,” said Head Coach Drew Emmert, who enters his eighth season at the helm. He said the team is an older group compared to last year, which he noted is “a good thing.”

“After a tough year like that, you’ve kind of got to learn how to win,” the coach said. “And that’s what this group needs to do. We had a good summer, played a lot of basketball, and these guys have been working hard in the gym. So it’s going to be fun to see what we can do.”

Sweet Home begins this season’s campaign without last year’s Most Valuable Player Russ Holly and Defensive MVP Eddie Martinez, both of whom graduated. But they return junior Nathan Aker, who was the only sophomore named as an All-League Honorable Mention in the OWC last season.

The Huskies also bring back a returning starter in junior Vegas Mauer. Senior Von James started every game he suited up for last year (he only played for half the season), and senior Evan Towry started in a lot of games as well.

Emmert pointed out Aker and James as key scorers. “Aker and James both score the ball really well, and we’ll have to go through them,” he said. “But we’ve got a couple more shooters this year, so I think we have a few more options.”

Overall, he said the team has more options and scoring power than last year.

Still, he noted that “We’re not crazy talented on the offensive side, so we’re going to have to make sure we run our stuff and get good shots.”

The coach wants the Huskies to push the ball when they can.

“We’re pretty deep as far as our first through ten guys,” he said. “There’s not a big difference between them, so we can play a lot of guys and play faster pace.”

Emmert wants to incorporate that fast pace on defense as well.

“Defensively, we’re going to try to play a little bit more fast-paced than we did last year,” he said. “I think we need to force some turnovers and get some easy points that way. If we can force some turnovers and score that way, it might hide a few of our offensive flaws. I think that would give us a big advantage if we can do that, and kind of get us in a better rhythm.”

The Huskies will compete in a conference that had three top-10 teams in the state last season, including defending state champion Cascade, while Philomath beat Stayton for third place in the state.

Emmert said he expects the OWC will have four of the top teams in the state this year.

“That always makes it hard,” he said of the competition.

“We need to show that we can play at that level. We always have a goal to make the playoffs, so I would say our goal is to make a play-in game. There’s a lot of question marks this year as far as what we can do, so it makes it exciting, but it’s hard to say exactly where we fit into the mix.”

The coach said “We’re going to take it one game at a time. I’m really excited to get going and starting off.”

Rounding out the Husky varsity team are seniors Riley Korn and Dylan Luttmer, juniors Will Jewell, Taiden Burger, Ethan Delibertis and Collin Nicholson, and sophomore Josh Aker.

Juniors Kason Forum, Max Klumph and Jon Holly will swing between varsity and junior varsity.

The Huskies open the season at Elmira at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 30. They then take on Cottage Grove at home at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2.