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Friday, January 19, 2018

Mason Hutchinson photo

DCHS basketball younger, smaller

By Anthony Varriano

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

The Dawson County High School basketball team will have a very different look this season. Having lost post players Jarod Asche and Bret Vester to graduation last year, this year’s Red Devils will be younger and smaller.

DCHS head coach Wade Murphy said he picked up one post player in sophomore Stephen Steinbron, who just moved to Glendive.

“He’ll see a lot of that middle of the paint, so he kind of helps a little bit, but he certainly doesn’t replace (Asche) and (Vester),” Murphy said, adding later that he’s excited to see what the 6-foot-6 Steinbron can bring the team. “He’s got pretty good feet for a kid that size.”

Murphy said this year’s team will be “more guard-heavy” and will be “looking at more drive-and-kick opportunities.” He’s excited to have a plethora of ball-handlers and the return of sophomore shooter Pacyn Partridge, who got a taste of varsity competition last year.

“Partridge is the only kid that comes back with a lot of experience,” Murphy said. “We really don’t have any starters coming back because Partridge was never a full-time starter.” 

With the lack of experience on the roster, Murphy expects teams to challenge the Red Devils early and often to see how the group responds to varsity competition. Seniors returning that competed for varsity time last year are Logan LeProwse, Wyatt Buxbaum and Baxter Baker. 

“From the standpoint of putting three or four kids on the floor at a time to bring the ball up the floor, I’m excited about that,” Murphy said.

Senior Jory Opp was recovering from a knee injury during the season last year but is healthy and ready to contribute this year. Murphy is also “really excited” about junior Robby Keiser, who didn’t play as a freshman but “has come into his own.”

Joining Keiser as juniors on the varsity roster are Logan Boner, Lane Walker and David Skerritt. The sophomores are Steinbron, Partridge, Logan Phipps and Ephraim Yohan. The lone freshman on varsity is Kade Hellman, but Murphy said the freshmen class took quite a hit this season.

“We lost five kids out of that freshmen class. Four moved away and one decided to wrestle,” he explained. Murphy said the drop-off is happening elsewhere, too. In visiting with Sidney’s coach, he was informed that they have just five freshmen and five sophomores out for the team. 

The DCHS froshmore team consists of just 11 players currently: Cameron Machado, Chay Vandyke, Matt Dufner, Logan Alkire, Ethan Carney, Taylor Sherman, Trenton Reinhardt, Jacob Burman, Mason Whitmer, Nike Djiade Ngalamo and Davide Bernasco. That makes for just 24 players overall. There were 32 boys that made up the DCHS basketball teams at the start of last season.

“Our biggest drop-off in basketball is from the freshman to the sophomore year, and that is because a lot of kids realize it’s not like it was in middle school,” Murphy explained. “You have to put the time in because the teams you’re playing … have kids that play two or three sports and their skills are a little more advanced.”

Of the 12 freshmen that came out last year, just Yohan, Phipps and Partridge returned. Kadyn Deckert moved to wrestling, and two others chose academic team and speech and drama. Last year’s sophomore class is also down, with just four of nine returning as juniors to basketball. If just four of the former basketball players moved on to other activities, that leaves nine players who’ve quit the game.

“Kids know the score. They know who the best basketball player in the sophomore class is, and they know if they’re not it,” Murphy said. “My only problem is when kids come in and say they don’t want to play anymore, and I ask, ‘What are you going to do instead?’ and they don’t have an answer.”

Regardless, Murphy said the kids he has are working hard to improve and he appreciates the extra week of practice the team is getting this season because the Eastern A is stacked once again.

“I really think Hardin is going to be a handful … BC was in state championship game last year and is bringing back a good group. Laurel has a couple of injuries they’re dealing with, but the kids they have there are good enough to withstand that. Sidney is just super athletic.” 

Miles City is in a similar situation as Glendive, having lost leaders Gavin Gundlach, Conner Torstenbo and Italian post player Andrea Lo Biondoto to graduation.

The Red Devils will get a good look at the Central A when they visit Havre to play Billings Central on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The boys then face Lewistown on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Havre. First though, the Red and White scrimmage will be held this Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Reach Anthony Varriano at rrsports@rangerreview.com.

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