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By Amber Hayden
ELK MOUND — After winning the 2016-17 Dunn-St. Croix Conference title, the Elk Mound boys’ basketball team had set their sights on winning another championship last season but fell short and finished fifth in the conference and watched as the Durand Panthers claimed the coveted conference championship for the 2017-18 season.
Michael Kessler, who enters his third year as the Mounders’ head coach with a record of 27-20, explained that Elk Mound did not reach their goals unfortunately but were happy to take a win in the first round of the WIAA Division 4 tournament in February before losing in the second round of playoffs to Eau Claire Regis.
Elk Mound finished 10-14 overall last season and were an even 7-7 in the D-SC conference.
“We lost a significant number of players, and along with it have to replace a lot of significant experience,” stated Kessler of last year’s squad.
The eight seniors that were lost to graduation – Ben Lambele, Dylan Black, Ryan Mohr, Dylan Curry, Blake Rosenthal, Conner Mavis, Brandon Redwine and Nathaniel Schreiber – provided size and guard play for the Mounders last season, but Kessler is hopeful that the returning athletes will rise to the challenge and fill the shoes of the graduated seniors.
Two top scorers returning for the 2018-19 season are seniors Marcus Kinblom and Brett Lew. Both players, who stand at six foot and plus, averaged just over 4.5 points per game last season.
Kinblom netted 41 field goal for a .506 field goal percentage in his 18 games played last season, while Lew hit for 28 field goals and 23 three-pointers in 24 game appearance in 2017-18.
Brett Lew and Kinblom also ranked fourth and sixth respectively in rebounds on last year’s squad with 76 and 52.
“We are lucky to return athletes that got to see a lot of time last year. These guys not only have great basketball abilities, but work hard together and for each other,” coach Kessler explained. “There is some great leaders in this group that we will rely on to help lead the younger athletes on the squad.”
The attack mentality that the Mounders bring to the table should lead to bigger plays and the ability to shoot the ball from the outside, stated Kessler.
Sophomore Nate Lew and senior Jake Mentzel also return to the Mounders’ squad for the 2018-19 season.
Nate Lew snared 11 rebounds, an assist, and two steals last season with Mentzel adding in nine rebounds, two assists, three steals and three blocks in his limited minutes.
With every team there are strengths that the coach sees, and Elk Mound is no different.
Kessler explained his team will have strong post play and that the Mounders have players who can stretch the floor and shoot from the outside.
“I also love this groups ‘team-first’ mentality, as they want the best for those around them,” the Mounders’ coach stated.
It’s Kessler’s belief that the strong leadership is also a positive for the Mounders’ squad and that the players’ athletic abilities will allow them to do multiple things with the 2018-19 team.
In order to compete with Colfax, Durand and Spring Valley, Elk Mound will look to improve on defense, emphasizing on rebounding, screening and cutting, stated Kessler.
According to Kessler those will be the three teams to beat in the D-SC this year if the Mounders hope to take home another conference title before heading into playoffs.
The Mounders will host Fall Creek in a non-conference game next Tuesday, November 27 to open the season. Elk Mound will then travel to Black River Falls on Thursday, November 29 and will be at UW-Stout on Saturday, December 1 to play Altoona. Elk Mound will begin conference play at Boyceville on Thursday, December 6.
2018-19 Varsity Roster
Seniors: Rian Flynn, Marcus Kinblom, Brett Lew, Max Marquardt, Bryce Maves, Jake Mentzel and Colton Ward
Juniors: Cade Hanson, Chase Rhude, Cole Steinhorst and Blaze Todd
Sophomores: Ryan Bohl, Ben Heath, Michael Jenson and Nate Lew