LAMOILLE – Stoked by their frosh-soph’s 16-6 finish of one year ago, the 2012-13 LaMoille/Ohio varsity Lions are poised to improve significantly on the results of recent basketball seasons past. Last season ended with a 2-24 record, but L/O’s underclassmen challenged seriously for the Little Ten Conference frosh-soph tournament title. In that championship contest, the younger Lions roared out to a 21-2 lead in the first quarter, but ultimately fell to Serena by four points.
Fourth-year Lions' head coach Brent Kalsto is looking forward to the hardwood campaign that lay directly ahead.
“We’re expecting big things. We have players,” said Kalsto. “They work hard. They hustle. They listen.
“The Little Ten’s tough. It’s tough. We’re going to still take some hits. We’re going to lose some games. But it’s going to be a lot more competitive basketball, which we’re looking forward to.
“In the past, teams see us on the schedule and it’s foreign exchange student night, you know, everyone scores. I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year. Are we going to win 20 games? Probably not this year, but … Consistency is what we’re trying to get.”
L/O’s projected starting five this season will feature four juniors and a sophomore. Anthony Lovgren, Preston Powers, Julian Gonzalez and Brandon Morris are the juniors, while Jeffry DeLong is the varsity-only sophomore.
Coach Kalsto spoke about his starting five.
“Anthony Lovgren will play a guard. Anthony, if he’s on, he’s a pretty good streak shooter,” he said. “He’ll play hard, (good) defense. I don’t have to worry about him making mistakes. I mean, he’ll make a few here and there, but I’ll tell him what to do and he fixes it. So he’s a good listener.
“Preston’s going to be a little bit of everything for us. We’re going to have him down low a little bit. He’s going to be out on the wing. He may have to handle the ball a little bit. Looking for a big year from him.
“Julian, when we were in summer league, there weren’t many kids who could keep him in front of them. He’s small, but he can get to the hoop with the best of (them in the) Little Ten. It’s just recognition (that) he needs to work on, when he can and when he can’t get to the hoop.
“Jeff’s raw. Jeff’s a work in progress. He’s good, but he’s got to control himself and know when to do things. But he’s going to help us. He’s got a good, outside three-point shot. He’ll play hard.
“And then Brandon, he’s our workhorse. I mean, and I tell the boys, I don’t mean that in a bad way, like it’s Brandon Morris and you other four (boys). No, everything starts with Brandon. When he’s on, he’s pretty hard to stop as anyone in our conference. It’ll take teams to stop him, not single players.
“If we feed him, and get him the ball, it opens everything up for our outside game. It opens up everything.” Garrett Geuther, the only returning senior will serve as the Lions’ very important sixth man, first off the bench.
“He’s going to be our energy guy,” Kalsto said. “And he’s accepted that role. I don’t think he likes it, being the lone (returning) senior, but he’ll play a lot, and he’ll get a couple starts here and there.”
Rounding out the varsity roster are first-year senior, first-year varsity player Wesley Rogers, sophomores Luke Becker and Tracer Mills, as well as freshmen Alan Stamberger, Josh Gross, Derek Debruhl and Jacob Tudor.
“It’s Hinckley’s to lose,” Kalsto said about the Little Ten Conference race. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Hinckley was rated 1 or 2 in the state. They’ve got everyone back from a team that blew everyone out in the Little Ten by 20 (points). “ Other than them, Paw Paw’s loaded. Newark’s loaded. Indian Creek’s loaded. Somonauk’s loaded. Serena’s loaded. I mean, everyone in the conference is. You know, there’s Hinckley, and then there’s the next six who could beat anyone (else) on any given night.”
LaMoille/Ohio will, again, play a pair of home games in Ohio Dec. 18 against Annawan and on Jan. 8 versus DePue.
“Obviously, more wins,” said Kalsto, when asked about his team’s goals for the season. “Our goals are to be a lot more competitive, and make people kind of more proud of being from LaMoille (and Ohio).
“We don’t want that feeling of always being looked at as this easy W, and we’re not happy about it. We want (to win) as many games as we can, obviously. Any team does.
“But we have a window. We believe we have a window of the next two years. This year, I think we’ll surprise people, but we’ll still take our lumps, which is fine. We’re young. We’re growing. And that’s what we’re going to do.
“We’re playing this year hard to prepare for next year. We’re preparing our younger kids to keep a tradition going. We don’t want to be just two years and done. We’re (looking to) build these kids for a while, and hopefully, we can continue, just build our program.”
Gone from last year’s squad is a quartet of graduates, Mitchell Barker, Jordan Farmer, Nick Zimmerlein and Ryan Lawrence.
Assistant coach Kurt Folk returns for his fourth year as well.
“I’m excited,” Kalsto said. “I’ve been through some rough seasons. But, at the same time, I’ve had a lot of fun with those kids who have been here in the past. We had fun. But, I’m really excited, really excited about this season.”