Posted: Friday, November 27, 2015 5:18 pm | Updated: 5:24 pm, Fri Nov 27, 2015.
By AARON KENNEDY firstname.lastname@example.org
ROSSVILLE – Coming off back-to-back sectional championships, second-year head coach Cory Dunn and his Rossville Hornets boys’ basketball team enter the new season hoping to make it three in a row and maybe even compete for the program’s first regional title since the Hornets knocked off Lafayette Central Catholic on their way to a state title in 2002.
The Hornets will have to find that success without several players – including leading scorer and rebounder Clayton Howard – who helped the program win its only sectional titles since that memorable 2002 season.
“We lost two really good senior leaders in Clayton Howard and Kyle Bordner,” Dunn said. “Then we had some other good seniors who gave us a lot throughout the year like Joe Beery and Elijah Beard. They were good leaders and great kids for me to start out my career at Rossville. They will be missed, but the future looks bright.”
Some young starters from last year’s squad and some guys who paid their dues playing for the junior varsity the past few seasons will be counted on to make up for what was lost to graduation.
“We played a lot of sophomores last year and had Enrique Rangel come up from the junior varsity late in the season last year,” Dunn said. “It will be kids like that who are going to be the ones to step up.”
Christian Howard, Brent Tonsoni and Rangel are this year’s senior leaders.
“All three of them are going to be very important to what we do,” Dunn said. “Two of them may start a good part of the time this year.
“Then we have our junior class, which logged a lot of minutes, and three of them started last year as sophomores. Another one is probably going to start this year. We have a lot of kids, and it’s their turn to step up. They have been waiting on this chance. We will see how they do, but I think they are up for the challenge.”
The Hornets finished last season with a somewhat deceiving 11-16 record. Rossville lost two overtime games and another lone of its losses came in double overtime.
This season, Dunn will rely on an abundance of talented players in the backcourt.
“I think our guard play is going to be our strength,” he said. “Our guard play should be a strength because Matt Homco started almost the entire season last year at point guard. Grant Mohler started as a sophomore last year. He is in a new role as a junior this year, but he is very confident in what role he is playing. Blake Miller missed some of last season with an injury, but once we got him back, he was starting as a sophomore.
“We don’t have a ton of size, but what size we have I have a lot of confidence in,” Dunn added. “Harrison Whiteman is another player coming up from the JV who is going to give us a lot of energy on the floor. He is a versatility player who can play in and out. He can play anywhere from the five to the two for us. Jared Warren is also coming up from the JV. He played on the varsity but very sparingly. He is a 6-foot-5 guy in the middle who can do a lot of things well for us, and he will be an x-factor for us. We don’t have a lot of size but with the two guys that we have that have size – Jared Warren and Christian Howard – they are going to give us a lot of great minutes in there and will be able to fill that void.”
Dunn also like the fact that teams should not be able to focus on stopping just one or two players.
“The nice thing about our team is every one of those kids I mentioned can be a scorer on any given night,” he said. “On average our two go-to guys, so to speak, would be Rangel and Miller, but I take pride in this group in that any given night it could be a different kid. They are all capable of it. Last year, as a sophomore, Grant Mohler led the team in scoring one game. Jared Warren is capable of leading any team in scoring, and Matt Homco does so many great things for us on both ends of the floor that, a lot of times, he may not be the leading scorer but his play is leading to somebody’s points.”
According to Dunn, relentlessness and a strong work ethic are the most noticeable traits of this year’s team.
“We call it Hornet style for a reason,” he said. “We pride ourselves in how hard we play. It doesn’t matter who we are playing. For the size of school we are, our regular season schedule is pretty tough. I feel like our kids play as hard as they can. They are going to play well together and commit to that toughness. That’s the kind of kids we have. They work hard and don’t complain. It makes it fun to coach.”
With sectional championship hardware placed in the Rossville trophy case after the last two seasons, there is an expectation for that success to continue.
“Championships are always our goal,” Dunn said. “We want to be competing for a sectional championship and a chance to compete for a regional championship. We feel like we are capable of being conference champions. Those are goals of ours.”
Those are not the only goals the coaching staff at Rossville is working toward completing.
“We want them to become strong-minded, good young men who know how to play and know how to treat people,” Dunn added. “At the end of the day, probably none of these kids are going to play in the NBA and make millions of dollars, so we want to make sure that they get something else too. There is so much to be gotten from the game of basketball.”