ELK MOUND — After losing four players through graduation with a ton of varsity experience, Elk Mound head boy’s basketball coach Chris Hahn expects to be able to fill those holes this year with a combination of experienced players and some newcomers.
Gone are two time All Conference pick Nick Heit who was the team’s leading scorer and three point expert, along with three year starter and AC player last year Dakota Tarnow, two year starter and also AC last year Hunter Dicus and top reserve Ryan Bridges, a two year varsity player. The Mounders had a perfect regular season, winning the conference with a 16-0 record and going 23-0 before losing a heart breaking sectional final game to Colfax, a team they had beaten twice during the year. Neither team will have to worry about meeting up in a regional game again since Elk Mound, due to an increase in enrollment, moves up to Division 3 this year.
Back to defend their conference title are First team All Conference and Third team All Northwest guard senior Zac Doll. Doll averaged over 10 points a game last year, four rebounds per game and led the team in assists with 67 for the year.
“We expect Zac to be a good leader for us this year,” Hahn said. “He is a tremendous defender and rebounder and has worked very hard to improve his outside shot in the off season. We are looking forward to him having a huge year for us.”
Senior Dexter Curry, an Honorable Mention AC pick as a junior, is back 15 pounds lighter and a lot more agile according to Hahn, and will again fill the post position. Curry was the third leading scorer on the team and led the Mounders in rebounding with a 6.4 average per game.
“Dexter has a chance to be the best post player in the conference,” Hahn said. “His unique blend of size and soft touch around the rim makes him a real offensive threat and he’ll also cause people a lot of trouble at the defensive end of the floor. He has been moving very well in practice.”
Another senior, Travis Nelson came off the bench last season and saw plenty of varsity time. He was third on the team in steals, but is coming off a knee injury from the football season.
“Travis was a big time player for us last year, coming off the bench,” Hahn said. “He is set up to have a great season for us. He has the best court vision of any kid I have coached since I have been in Elk Mound. He worked hard in the off season to improve his outside shot.”
And if those three seniors aren’t enough, try adding six more, including Austin Hanson, Adam Gottschalk, Logan Strom, Hunter Kohls. Ben Holzwarth and James Wolf.
“Austin is the most explosive athlete we have and when he turns it on, he is an incredible scorer and rebounder. Adam had a great off season in the weight room and gym. He is our best baseline defender in our 1-3-1 defense. He is also recovering from a football injury to his leg. Both Logan and Hunter split time at the JV and varsity level last year. They both shoot well from the perimeter and we look for them to play a bit in the post this year.” Holzwarth and Wolf both saw extended play at the JV level last season.
Newcomers expected to help the team are freshmen Dane Lew and Noah Zurbuchen. Both already have varsity experience from football and will split time on the JV and varsity this year.
“With so many pre-season injuries to our seniors, both of them look to make their varsity debuts earlier then expected,” Hahn said. “They are physically ready but will need to adjust to the speed of the varsity level,” he added.
Rounding out the varsity are juniors Cole Tyman and Josh Link along with sophomores Justin Erpenbach and Alexander Hollister.
Hahn and his team have set high goals for themselves this season.
“We want to compete for a conference championship,” Hahn said. “And we want to make a deep run in the playoffs. We feel if we are healthy, we can compete with anyone we play against.”
He expects the conference to be very strong again this year, with Mondovi returning nine seniors who have been playing varsity basketball since their freshmen year. He also sees Colfax and Spring Valley as being very solid with each being led by an outstanding senior.
As far as the difference in moving up a division for tournament play, Hahn believes the number of quality teams increases and there will be less blowout games.
“We are not going to worry about who we play but how we play,” he said. “If each of our players takes care of his responsibilities, we play together and don’t beat ourselves, we’ll have a chance against everyone we play. We can’t ask for more then that,” he concluded.
Hahn begins his sixth year leading the Mounders and is assisted by Tim Heit, John Linzmeier and Dennis Arneson. Action begins with two road games, starting at Eleva-Strum Nov. 19 and the first conference game at Elmwood Nov. 21.