Like the female contemporaries, Journal-covered boys basketball teams probably wanted a little more from their 2018-2019 seasons. R-P and Kingsland were the only two to finish above .500. Chatfield, Houston, and Lanesboro were a few wins short of it. R-P made the section final four, but fell. The Trojans, Gophers, and Hurricanes will definitely start the season with high hopes for strong campaigns. FC can’t help but improve while Kingsland, Lanesboro, and M-C all transition after graduating key assets including 1,000-point scorers.
In Rushford, it’s year two for Coach Chris Drinkall. He’ll look to improve upon the Trojans solid campaign a year ago. Rushford-Peterson went 9-7 in the TRC, 18-11 overall. They had big wins (over state 3rd place team SG) and big moments (nearly beat Caledonia), only to fall to Randolph in the Section semifinals. They were very young; one player away from being a pure B-squad. Last year’s sole upperclassmen contributor, two-time All-TRC pick and leading scorer Landon Skalet (13.2 PPG, 4.0 APG), is the only graduation. A couple relied upon players from last season aren’t out. The Trojans will return four key pieces. Heading the cast is leading returning scorer Luke O’Hare (6’3” Jr. F), R-P’s second All-TRC pick after averaging 13.1 (pts), 5.6 (rebs), 3.5 (asts), and 1.6 (stls). Mid-range is O’Hare’s best game. Justin Ruberg (6’3” So. F > 9.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG) is a second key piece following an impressive freshman season. He was A-C HM last year. Ben Wieser (6’6” Jr. C > 5.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 70% FGs) and Malachi Bunke (5’9” So. G) round out the returning troupe. The Trojans have their TRC schedule, then play teams from all over. They have the Decorah Border Battle (vs Forest City) and home holiday games (Nevis, D-E). They also play at Hope Academy in Minneapolis. Other home non-con games are (season opener) G-E-T and SG. Other away non-con games are Hayfield, Crestwood, Kingsland, and Houston.
Last year was a turn-around season in Chatfield. The Gophers (6-9 in the TRC, 11-14 overall) won seven more than in 2017-2018 (2-16, 4-22). They notably beat Section Runner-Up St. Charles. Jeff DeBuhr’s group fell to La Crescent in the 1AA Round of 16. The team of the Chosen Valley will look to continue trending upward. They lost two starters, including All-TRC pick, 6’8” center Josef Fahrenholtz (14.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG). Chatfield returns three starters including a trio of guys who all averaged 8-plus PPG. Third-year starter, All-TRC selection, and leading scorer Reid Johnson heads the cast. The 6’1” junior G hit double figures in all but one game last year, averaging 16.6 (pts), 4.6 (rebs), 3.1 (asts), and 2.4 (stls). He should surpass 1,000 career points this season. Landon Bance (6’0” Sr. G) was one of the TRC’s top sharp-shooters, as he averaged 11.6 PPG due to his 86 made three’s at an excellent 42.8% clip. Interior guy David Castleberg (6’3” Jr. F > 8.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG) rounds out the triad while Chance Backer (6’2” Sr. F > 2.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG) is a fourth full-time returnee. Additionally, late call-up Cole Johnson (6’0” Fr. G), Reid’s brother, played in each of the last nine games a season ago. Chatfield has its TRC schedule. They have the WSU Tourney (vs Z-M and Lanesboro). Home non-con games are Triton and Kingsland. Other road non-con games are BP, Pine Island, Z-M, Stewartville, and Grand Meadow.
It is year three for Trent Vix in Houston. The Hurricanes will look to take the next step, which would be progressing further in the play-offs. Team double-H went 5-9 in the SEC last season, 13-15 overall. They fell 45-42 to eventual section champion Spring Grove in the 1A quarters. After a 3-7 start, they went 10-8. A pair of every-game guys graduated, including multiple time All-SEC list maker, 1,000-point scorer, James Hongerholt (15.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG). But Houston returns its top four minute-getters. Third-year starters Alex Van Gundy (6’1” Sr. G) and Mikkel Schutte (6’5” Sr. F/C) head the cast. They could be the SEC’s most formidable duo. Van Gundy went over 1,000 points last year in making the All-SEC 2nd Team (16.9 PPG, 5 RPG, 2.5 SPG). Schutte was a beast (21 PPG, 16.8 RPG first nine games) early last season when Hongerholt was hurt. He was the SEC’s top rebounder and averaged a double-double (13.6 PPG, 11 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 2.1 BPG). From there, Caiden Danielson (6’1” Sr. G > 10.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG) gives team double-H three returning 10 PPG guys. Noah Kingsley (5’11” Jr. G > 5.7 PPG) is a fourth key experienced asset. Braden Kennedy (5’9” Sr. G) is the only other player to see double digit games. Houston has their normal league schedule, which features the Rochester SEC Showcase (vs GM). They have the Decorah Border Battle (Turkey Valley) and the La Crosse-Aquinas Holiday Tourney (vs Aquinas, vs TBD). Other home non-con games are W-K, Cotter, Stewartville, L-A, and R-P. Road non-con games are Alden-Conger, K-W, FC, and Blooming Prairie. *(Houston stats are close approximations based off mostly complete information).
The Kingsland Knights come off a good year. John Fenske’s group went 11-3 in the SEC, 17-11 overall. They won eight straight before losing to Randolph in a 1A quarterfinal in Rochester. Team double-K lost a trio of starters. Included were the top two players, 1,000-point scorer, two-time All-Conference pick, and leading scorer Wyatt Pruter (21.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.2 APG, 2.1 SPG), plus All-SEC HM selection Reid Kruegel (12.3 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.2 SPG). Kingsland returns two starters in Zach Hauser (6’6” Sr. F > 9.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG) and Lucas Howard (5’9” Sr. G > 5.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.4 SPG). Reed Merkel (6’0” Sr. G) was a third every-game guy, Walker Erdmann (6’2” So. G > 6.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG) contributed the last 12 games, while Brady Musel (6’6” Sr. C) and Nate Lund (5’11” Sr. F) saw some action last year. Kingsland has five seniors and two juniors. The Knights have their normal league schedule, which includes the Rochester SEC Showcase (vs M-C). They play Lanesboro (home) non-con also. Kingsland has the Decorah Border Battle (New Hampton) and holiday games (FC, at Southland). Other home non-con games are W-K, Hayfield, R-P, and BP. Road non-con games are D-E and Chatfield.
In Preston, it is a fresh start following last year’s amnesia campaign. Fillmore Central went 0-16 in the TRC, 0-27 overall. Twenty-three losses came by double digits. The Falcons fell to Lanesboro in a 1A play-in game. The new beginning comes with a new coach. Last year’s junior varsity guy Brady O’Connor takes over the nest. FC lost four full-timers, including its sole A-C HM player, leading scorer Josh Peters (14.9 PPG). They bring back some guys and bring in two new faces who sat out varsity per transfer. The Falcons will get wins (plural) this year. Zach Haugerud (6’0” Jr. G > 5.4 PPG, 1.7 RPG) is the leading returning scorer. He averaged around 9.1 PPG when his minutes were upped the last 11 games. Ian Shupe (6’2” Sr. F > 2.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG) is a returning starter. Hadrian Williams (5’9” Sr F > 1.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG), Mason Berg (6’1” Sr. G/F > 1.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG), and Carson Kiehne (5’7” Jr. G) also saw regular varsity minutes. The x-factors are transfers Haidyn Gunderson (6’2” Sr. G/F), an Australia native hyped as the most talented kid in the program, and Grant Kennedy (6’1” Jr. F), who formerly was in the LeRoy-Ostrander district. They helped FC’s JV go 18-5. The Falcons have their TRC schedule. They have the Decorah Border Battle (vs MFL Mar Mac) and holiday games (M-C, at Kingsland). Home non-con games are L/P, Lanesboro, Schaeffer Academy, Houston, and GM. Away non-con games are SG and Goodhue.
Like their girls, Lanesboro will start the year in a new coach. Matt Asleson will take over heading the Burros. Team orange and black went 4-10 in the SEC, 10-15 overall. They lost to Randolph in the 1A Round of 16. Lanesboro went 8-7 after a 2-8 start. Five every-night players, three key starters graduated. Included was All-SEC 2nd Team pick, 1,000-point scorer Carson Schwichtenberg (18.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.6 SPG). Lanesboro top experienced players are Sawyer Johnson (6’0” Jr. G) and John Prestemon (6’0” Fr. G). Johnson is the top returning scorer (9.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 68 made threes). Prestemon (4.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.6 APG) played a big role as just an 8th grader. J.T. Rein (5’10” So. G/F) is a third key returnee. From there, it will be a lot of fresh faces. Lanesboro has no seniors, but a seven-person junior class. The Burros have their league schedule, which includes the Rochester SEC Showcase (vs L/P). They also play G-E (home), L-O (home), and Kingsland (away) non-con. They have the Decorah Border Battle (Postville) and the WSU Tourney (Chatfield, Cotter). Cochrane-Fountain City is the only other home non-con game. Other road non-con games with FC, W-K, Cotter, Goodhue, and Alden-Conger.
It will be a fresh start this year for Mabel-Canton. The Cougars lost a bunch off last year’s team, which went 4-10 in the SEC, 8-19 overall. They fell to W-K in a 1A play-in game. Four starters graduated (albeit Blake Henry missed much of last year to injury). Three-time All-SEC 1st or 2nd team pick, 1,000-point scorer, and four-year point guard Drew Wyffels (11.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.8 APG, 3.4 SPG) was the biggest departure, followed by All-SEC HM pick, 6’5” Dylan Loppnow (15.7 PPG, 10.6 RPG). Coach Russell Larson returns just one all-year starter, Brayden Gjere (6’3” Sr. G > 3.9 PPG, 1.7 RPG). Parker Ingvalson (5’11” Sr. F > 5.3 PPG, 3. 5 RPG) and Ethan Underbakke (6’1” Sr. G/F > 4.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG) either started (in Henry’s void) or were top reserves. Gavin Johnson (6’1” Jr. F) and Dawson Wilder (6’1” Sr. F) also played in most of M-C’s games. There will be a lot of new cohesion to build. The Cougars will do so against their normal SEC schedule, which includes the Rochester SEC Showcase (vs Kingsland). They also play G-E and L-O at home non-con, L/P and GM on the road non-con. They have the Decorah Border Battle (Kee) and Holiday games (at FC, Southland). Other home non-con games are Coulee Christian, Decorah, and L-A. Road non-con games are Alden-Conger and Hayfield.