Coaches preview their teams

 

TRI-CITY AREA — The start of another high school basketball season is now underway.

Here is a look at who our Tri-City squads lost to graduation, their key returnees and how things shape up as the season begins this week.

 

Boys back on the courts

 

At Dryden, John DelCampo is back for his 16th season as their head coach.

Last winter Dryden wound up with a 15-6 overall record. That included a 9-3 North Central Thumb League standing, good for second place.

Ronny Hudson (NCTL defensive player of the Year), Coulter Waite and Jacob Livingston were Dryden’s top losses due to graduation.

All-NCTL first team selection Jack Kaplan (19.5 points per game), All-NCTL second team choice Nate Schenkel (9.0 points and 7.0 rebounds a contest), returning starter Josh Schornak and Harry Atkinson (top player off the bench a year ago) are Dryden’s top returning players. All are seniors.

Junior guard Merrick Maris (Romeo), junior post Caden Meulebrock (Rochester Adams) and sophomore forward Dylan Ledford (Anchor Bay) have all transferred into the district and are expected to be key contributors.

DelCampo lists Dryden and Kingston as the likely frontrunners for the NCTL title.

“We always feel we have a chance to win the league and then do well in the tournament,” DelCampo said. “We
return two of the top players in the league and have added some transfers that should help us,” he noted.

“It should be an exciting season.”

In Almont, John Hall returns for his fifth season as their head coach.

His team is coming off a 13-8 overall campaign. It was there his team went 9-5 versus BWAC rivals, paving the way to a third place.

Gabe Bourdeau, who now plays for Alma College, was Almont’s top player lost to graduation. He was a Tri-City Times All-Area first team selection.

His classmates Colby Schapman and Brett Wrobel, who earned Tri-City Times All-Area first team accolades as well, and Mike Rinke, a Tri-City Times All-Area honorable mention pick, will also be tough to replace.

Senior Joey Savel, senior Charlie Koenig, senior Blake Cody, senior Scott Pape and junior Blake Campbell are Almont’s top returnees.

Hall listed Cros-Lex, Armada and Almont as the top-three likely BWAC title favorites.

“This year’s version of Almont basketball is similar to the 2016-17 team that had so much success,” Almont Coach John Hall said. “This team possesses great team chemistry,” he noted.

“All of the challenges that COVID has delivered has bonded this team. We are blessed with great senior leadership and they have pushed the underclassmen to work hard and improve. There will be more talented teams in the BWAC this season, but I have a strange feeling Almont is going to surprise people this year.

We have consistently been an elite defensive team for the past four seasons, yet we have completely changed the way we are going to play defense. We will implement an aggressive full trap that requires every player to compete with maximum effort. This style fits the personality of this team.

Offensively, we are going to be more aggressive. We have abandoned the ball control slow and deliberate style we have played in the past. We will look to play much faster and utilize the three-point shot at a much higher frequency. I am impressed by how well the team has embraced these changes and how hard the players are working to adjust to the new style.”

At Imlay City, Don Gauthier is back for his 12th season as their head coach.

Last winter, Imlay City produced an 8-13 record. That included a 5-9 Blue Water Area Conference standing, good for sixth place.

Hunter Medrano and Riley Bertram were Imlay City’s top losses due to graduation.

Seniors Parker Lewis, Zack Dingwell, Will Tolley, Chris Cezik and Raymond Liu plus juniors Andrew Badder, Holden Redd and Dean Aune are Imlay City’s key returnees.

Gauthier opted not to list a favorite for the BWAC title, instead saying that every game in the league is a tough one.

“Our guys have been selfless, committed and motivated,” Gauthier commented. “We are excited for the opportunity to play.”

In Capac, Josh Harvey returns for his second season as their head coach.

His team is coming off a 2-18 overall campaign. It was there his squad went 1-11 versus Greater Thumb Conference East foes.

Hank Barker was Capac’s top loss due to graduation.

Seniors Joe Montney and Ben Laskowski are Capac’s key returnees.

Harvey listed Sandusky as the probable Greater Thumb Conference East title favorite

“We have a lot of experience and I am loving the drive from our number one player to number 14,” Harvey said. “We have a great group of hard working young men,” he noted.

 

Girls’ hoop play is underway

 

In Imlay City, Heather Lauwers returns for her fifth season as their head coach.

She is coming off a 17-3 overall campaign. It was there her team forged a 12-2 Blue Water Area Conference showing, paving the way to a first place.

Imlay City would go on from there to win a district title over Marysville and reach the regional championship game, only to see their tournament path halted when the remainder of their season was called off due to the pandemic.

Delayna Osko and Izzy Aune were Imlay City’s top players lost due to graduation.

Senior Kayla Rossen, senior Abigail Thibodeau, junior Mary Lengemann, junior Ana Lengemann, junior Jaya Forti and sophomore Lily Lengemann are Imlay City’s key returnees.

Lauwers lists Imlay City as one of the teams that could win BWAC honors this winter.

In addition to that, Lauwers believes Almont could challenge her team for the distinction of league champion.

“Our team and I know others are anxious to get started going up and down the court. For us it was difficult where we left off and the opportunity we had last year to compete for the regional title,” she noted.

“We are taking that competitive mindset and hunger, putting it towards this season for us to have the same opportunity as last year. From the allowance of outdoor conditioning, to tryouts, and to daily zoom workouts during the shutdown these girls are eager to just play. These past few weeks we were able to get in condition and to individualize some skills, but come Monday (February 8) there will be some fire in the eyes. Out first game will be a league game where we will travel to Algonac. Good luck to all and we are very thankful to play.”

At Almont, Erik Johnson is back for his fifth season as their head coach.

Last winter Almont put together an 11-10 record. That included a 7-7 Blue Water Area Conference showing, good for fourth place.

Almont did not lose a player from the 2019-20 campaign due to graduation.

Brandi Kautz, Hannah Revoldt, Jesse Hellebuyck, Skylar Stryker, Grace Johnson, Sarah Hall and Kendall Roszczewski are Almont’s top returnees. Kautz, Revoldt, Hellebuyck and Stryker are seniors; Grace Johnson and Hall are juniors; and Roszczewski is a sophomore.

Erik Johnson lists Imlay City, Almont and Cros-Lex as teams that should battle it out for the distinction of BWAC champions this winter.

“We are ready to go,” Johnson said. “Our core group has been together going on three seasons.” he noted.

“We have great leadership and have added depth,” he noted.

“Getting junior Lizzy Brandt back from injury, along with getting our transfer senior Katie Whitney eligible (she sat out a year ago due to transfer rules) and having sophomore Grace Koenig (she was called up from junior varsity midway through last season) for a full season gives us a deep and talented bench. We are excited to prove people right that our time is now.”

In Dryden, Rick Kage is back for season two as their head coach,

He is coming off a 12-8 overall campaign. It was there his team went 6-6 versus NCTL adversaries, paving the way to a fourth place.

Hannah Peyerk and Kylie DeVlaminck were Dryden’s top players lost to graduation.

Senior guard Ella Kage, a four-year varsity player, along with her classmates Alexis Schuhrke, Miya Wolff, Natalie Embree, Riley Knox and Olivia Miller all return for Dryden’s varsity.

Kage opted not to predict a favorite for conference honors this winter.

“We are looking forward to playing all the teams and getting this season going,” Kage commented. “We have a group of players that have been playing together for some time,” he noted.

“Our team has a lot of talent. We look to be competitive this season.

At Capac, Ashley Mousseau is back for her second season as head coach.

Last winter Capac put together a 3-21 record. That included a 2-10 Greater Thumb Conference showing.

Natalie Maday, Jona Mullin and Skylar Schocke were Capac’s key losses due to graduation.

Senior Meriah Mason is Capac’s top returnee. The Chiefs also welcome back seniors Jenna Palazzolo, Erica Yeashevich, junior Juliana Closurdo and sophomore Julia Schaefer.

Mousseau believes several teams have a shot to claim the Greater Thumb Conference East title. She mentions Harbor Beach, Ubly, Brown City and Sandusky as the probable contenders.

“We have a young (only three seniors) hard working team this season. How quickly they develop will go a long ways to determining what type of year we have.”

 

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Kevin Kissane

Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.