Boys return experience, plan to push the pace in basketball

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home boys basketball comes into the season with experience, which could help them in shaking off the rust from their long pandemic-induced layoff. Their varsity team has ten seniors and two juniors.

“We’ve got a good core group that’s played together since grade school that are now seniors,” said Head Coach Drew Emmert.

Sweet Home went 15-9 with a 6-6 league record in the 4A-3 Oregon West Conference last year. Philomath won the conference with a 10-2 league record.

The Huskies started practice on May 10, while a handful of players were still competing in baseball and one was participating in track.

Sweet Home didn’t have their full squad on the practice court until last week, thanks to overlaps in the six-week seasons the OSAA decided to allow earlier this year. When the organization decided to allow high school sports, it moved “winter” sports — basketball, swimming and wrestling to the final of the three seasons that began in mid-February. The “winter” season will run through the end of June.

As his team prepared for its first game, Emmert wasn’t too concerned about the short preseason, despite the fact that the team usually has 2½ weeks before the start of competition.

“Us being older, I think is going to help a lot,” he said. “It was easier for us to get stuff in just because a lot of them ran it in the last couple of years.”

Hunter Coulter returns as a senior after averaging 16 points per game last year and being named first team all-league.

Emmert described him as “one of the best scoring posts in the state.”

“We’ll definitely go to him,” Emmert said of Coulter. “He’s pretty athletic and runs the floor well.”

Emmert said his team has “a lot of scorers” alongside Coulter.

Senior Aiden Tyler was also all-league last year. Emmert said Tyler is “about 20 pounds heavier with muscle. He’s worked hard in the offseason.”

Senior Cade Gaskey, who didn’t play as a junior, will suit up this season.

“He’s a really good all-around scorer,” said Emmert.

Senior Owen Towry also did not play last year, due to a torn ACL. But this year, Emmert said, “he’s in really good shape and will be a really good guard for us.”

Rounding out the varsity are seniors Austin Marler, Cole Baxter, Kaiden Deckard, Dawson Armstrong, Brayden Keesee, and Wyatt Erickson, as well as juniors Eddie Martinez and Russell Holly.

A total of 27 boys are signed up to play, and three teams will be fielded this season.

Emmert acknowledged that the shorter preparation time will definitely have an effect.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job getting in shape in these last two weeks, but people might have to play a little shorter stints,” he said.

“Usually we press and play super fast-paced. We’re still going to do that to a point, but we might ease off a little bit, just with this group and with that shorter practice time.

“And we might not switch defensives as much as normal.”

Emmert said the Huskies will play fast offensively.

“We’ll definitely push the ball off misses,” he said. “It’s a team that can play like that a lot of the game, and then be super situational as well.

“When we’re leading near the end of the game, we should be able to take control of the ball and play a little bit slower when we need to,” he said.

He expects his team to be adaptive. “If a team can dictate the pace on us a little bit, we should be able to adjust better than we have in the past.”

Emmert said “winning league is definitely what we want to do.” But he said “We’re really just taking it one game at a time. We’ll try to take care of business each night and see what happens.”