by Marlys Kruger
ELK MOUND -— Moving up to Division 3 last year didn’t seem to bother the Elk Mound boys’ basketball team a whole lot. After winning the Dunn-St. Croix Conference championship with a perfect 16-0 record, the Mounders sailed through regional and sectional play to reach the WIAA State Tournament on the Kohl Center floor, then ended their season with a sectional semi-final loss to Lodi 50-47.
But gone from that team via graduation are eight players including Conference Player of the Year Zac Doll who was second on the team in the scoring department, averaging 14.7 points per game, along with First team AC post player Dexter Curry who collected over 15 points a game and led the team with 9.3 rebounds a game. Travis Nelson and Hunter Kohls were Second Team AC picks and were third and fourth respectively in scoring for the Mounders, while Logan Strom, an Honorable Mention selection was fifth in scoring. Also gone are Austin Hanson, the sixth leading scorer, along with Adam Gottschalk and Ben Holzwarth.
Coach Chris Hahn will have only one player with varsity experience returning, that being sophomore Noah Zurbuchen. Another sophomore who was expected to play varsity, point guard Dane Lew is out for the season with a broken leg, which means Zurbuchen will take over his duties as the floor general this season.
With just one senior Ryan Krall on the team, juniors Justin Erpenbach, Cole Tyman, Alex Hollister and Brandon Bohl will be asked to play significant roles this year, according to Hahn. He also expects to get some contributions from juniors Colin Svee, Grant Kjellberg and Elliot Johnson as well as sophomores Carter Pritchard and Chandler Schreiber and freshmen Dylan Black and Ben Lambele who will all be competing for varsity minutes.
“Zurbuchen will be playing out of position for him but his athleticism and work ethic will make our team better,” Hahn said. “With such little varsity experience returning, I don’t really know who will be ready for the varsity speed yet so we’ll just see how the first few weeks go. We have probably the youngest team in the conference but I feel like we have developed a winning tradition in Elk Mound over the last six years and our players know what it takes to win basketball games. If we can figure out the right mix of kids early in the season and everyone is willing to accept a role that will help the team be successful, there is a lot of potential for this group of athletes.”
Strengths of the team are the desire to work and get better, very unselfish players, and a winning tradition as well as some good three point shooting. The lack of varsity experience, ability to control the tempo of the game along with lack of size and scoring in the post and rebounding will be the team’s weaknesses.
Hahn believes this will be the most balanced the conference has been in the last several years.
“We want to defend our back to back conference titles but there should be some really good teams in the conference this year including Colfax, Glenwood City and Elmwood-Plum City,” Hahn said. “And Mondovi will be better then a lot of people think. I think the conference champion could have three losses at the end of the season because their isn’t a dominant team that is unbeatable,” he added.
Hahn will have plenty of help from assistant coaches Jon Linzmeier, Tim Heit, Dennis Arneson and Dave Lew when Elk Mound opens the season at Altoona November 25. After two more road games they will play at home December 9 against St. Croix Central.