Cagers honored at annual basketball dessert

The approach to boys basketball this year took on a different look than coach Mark Risen anticipated, but the outcome was very satisfying.

After negotiating through the early season obstacles of illness and snowstorms along with the late turnout of Husky football players, Sweet Home once again vied for the league championship and returned to the state playoffs after a two year absence. To do that, Risen had to adjust to the situation, focusing on game readiness rather than fundamentals early on. At the same time, he systematically tweaked his normal desire for a ball control, motion offense to use the team’s racehorse speed to attack the perimeter defensively and put up a few more points offensively in transition.

In the half court offense, Risen expanded his playbook and called plays every time down the court. Even with these many changes, the Huskies were quick learners, which showed in their improved performances in the second half of the league schedule.

“It’s utterly amazing to me to look at how fast this group gelled, how coachable they were, and how well they listened,” said Risen. “You could see improvement daily.”

Their work ethic on the court was also reflected in their character away from basketball.

There were no distractions with academics (the Huskies were second in the state academically) or behavior, by far the best year in that category for Risen and his assistant coaches.

“There are so many variables that can be detractors to your team,” explained Risen. “It created such a positive atmosphere to go into the gym, knowing that we could just give our attention to basketball and enjoy the kids.”

At their year end dessert last week, Risen and his coaches handed out individual awards, based solely on the votes of the team’s players. Tim Matuszak received recognition as the outstanding player of the year. (See summary box for other results.)

Though the Huskies lose four starters off their roster, Risen foresees positive things from a junior varsity team that went 18-2 under coach Tim Little’s tutelage. Several of those players saw considerable action off the bench in varsity games and gained invaluable experience from the example set by the seniors and the chance to get a feel for state playoff caliber ball.

“The standard was set for them by the seniors,” stated Risen. “Some of these junior varsity players just live in the gym. They had to live in the shadows for awhile and work and work and work.”

Not only did the JV team excel, but the freshman team improved considerably, even though they had not experienced much success in the past.

“We let the past be the past,” said first year coach Pat Davis, who led the squad to a 10-10 mark. “They made strides that I didn’t foresee.”

For the seniors, Ricky Howe, Ronak Patel, Tyler Emmert, Anthony Mink, and Tim Matuszak, the season meant more than just wins or losses.

“Despite not getting as far as we wanted to, it was worth it, just spending the last four months with the four other seniors, doing something every day that I had fun doing, especially with a coach that made it fun,” said Matuszak.

Team Awards

Outstanding Player: Tim Matuszak

Defensive Player: Tyler Emmert

Hustle: Anthony Mink, third consecutive year

Sportsmanship: Ronak Patel

Most Improved: Cody Shipp/Alex Ritzman

Free Throw Percentage: Anthony Mink

JV Player of the Year: Aaron Forquer

Senior Reflections

On Ronak Patel:

Risen: Despite injury that kept him out for most of the year, he found a way to get involved by doing many of the little things and showed leadership that way.

Patel: The injury was the hardest thing I had to go through in my life. I learned a lot about responsibility and hard work, sticking with something over a long period of time to get better.

On Tyler Emmert:

Risen: Gave up size, but was out there banging with every big guy in the league; had the most strawberries and bruises.

Emmert: Risen taught us a lot of different things about life other than basketball. He really cared about us, which made you want to work hard for him.

On Ricky Howe:

Risen: Impressed with the way he worked with the younger players; did a good job of doing what the team needed him to do.

Howe: Since football got cut short for me, it was great to finish out a season with my friends.

On Anthony Mink:

Risen: spent an amazing amount of time in the gym; set a standard that everyone can aspire to.

Mink: I’ve been taught so much about the game. I know the things that I need to work on and the things it takes to be successful at the college level.

On Tim Matuszak:

Risen: Has an innate feel for the game that you can’t teach; had a calm demeanor that rubbed off on everyone else.

Matuszak: See comment at end of the article.