Boys eye run in state hoops tourney

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

After making the state playoffs last year for the first time in four years, the Sweet Home’s boys basketball team wants more this year.

The Huskies return five boys to their basketball team, three of whom were all-league selections last year.

Joining them are long list of younger players, including four sophomores.

Returning first-team selections are seniors Colton Emmert and Gabe Kauffman. Junior Ryan Graville received honorable mention. Also returning are Dustin Hay, a senior, and Josh Riggs, a junior.

Sophomores joining the varsity squad are Jerome Coleman, Drew Emmert, Brent Moyer and Levi Marchbanks. Juniors Brandon Oswalt and Zane Wise also move up to the varsity level along with Jerad Olsen, a senior who played his freshman and sophomore years but did not play his junior year.

“We’re finding out that we’re really young right now and really inexperienced,” Coach Tim Little said. “We’re trying to teach some basic stuff and get them up to speed for the year.

“Defensively, we’re going to try to do well again.”

Last year, the Huskies were the best defensive team in the Val-Co, allowing opponents only 43 points per game, Little said. They want to cut that down to 40 points per game this year.

Kauffman, Emmert and Graville will lead the Huskies offensively, Little said. “They have a ton of experience.”

Riggs and Hay, who both received varsity letters last year, have more limited varsity experience. Riggs had a little more experience than Hay.

At this point, Emmert is slated to play point, Little said. Kauffman can play any position, and Graville will play wing and post.

“Josh (Riggs) is mainly our inside threat,” Little said. “He’s really improved his offensive post game.”

During summer ball, he also took a lot of charges and stepped up his defensive post game, Little said.

Moyer, Coleman and Marchbanks, “have really shown they’re ready to compete at the varsity level and challenge these older guys,” Little said.

“We’ll be able to score, no doubt about that,” Little said. Emmert, Kauffman, Graville and Riggs are all offensive weapons who can put up points.

Emmert shot 62 percent from the field last year, with a strong mid-jumper, Little said. Graville can shoot the three or work the inside.

“Josh has just kind of mastered the post moves as well,” Little said. “I don’t think we’ll have a problem scoring. They’ve played a lot together over the years,” especially Emmert and Kauffman, who are cousins.

The starting lineup remained in flux at the beginning of this week, with a game scheduled at Cascade Tuesday and opening home action against Stayton on Thursday.

Last year, the Huskies finished second in the league and beat Central in a Val-Co playoff game to retain second seed. LaSalle defeated them in the first round of state playoffs.

“It was a good year,” Little said. The Huskies missed the league championship “basically by three points,” he said. They lost to Taft by one point and to Newport by two. They defeated league champion Philomath, undefeated by the rest of the league, all three times the teams met last year.

Philomath and Central will be tough this time around, Little predicted. They will probably be picked to finish at the top. Taft is bringing back a first-team player. Newport has a new coach and returns fairly big and strong players. Central also has a new coach, and the team always fields strong players. This year, Central will return a number of last year’s experienced sophomores.

“We’ll take some lumps preseason while we’re trying to figure things out,” Little said, but that’s all in preparation for league, where the Huskies’ goal is to win the championship and then make the final eight at Gill Coliseum.

After a successful summer season, the team has high expectations, Little said. “We still have to play the game, practice to improve and go out and do it, not just show up.”

Randy Hutchins continues to assist Little with the varsity this year. Craig Wilson remains junior varsity coach. Tim Matuszak is succeeding Karl Schmidtman as freshman coach.

The junior varsity roster includes Trevor Pitts, Tanner Erickson, Jacob Denton, Johnathen Webb, Christian Whitfield, Gavin Kauffman, Sean Potter and Dillon Jutte.

The freshmen include Jason Rice, Alex Santana, Joe Stroud, Robert Rubideaux, Cody Daniels, Paul Kim, Bryce Seiber, Chris Webb, Brandon Courteau, Taylor Mauch, Zach Miller and Tyler Mengore.