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Paynesville Press - November 29, 2006

Hoopsters optimistic for season

By Michael Jacobson

Optimism is high for the Bulldog boys' basketball team, which returns extensive varsity experience for its 2006-07 season.

"We think we can beat anyone on our schedule," said head coach Phil Carlson about the Dogs' prospects.

While not naming any specific goals, Carlson said the team has high expectations for the season. "We're excited," he said. The team, he added, has fought battles as underclassmen in the past and now can reap the rewards of experience.

Leading the returning players is senior Cory Nietfeld, who averaged 20.5 points per game last year, 13.5 rebounds per game, 3.9 steals per game, and 3.3 assists per game. He set single-season school records last year for rebounds (324) and steals (93) and became the fifth PAHS player to reach 1,000 career points.

With 1,079 career points, Nietfeld could break the school's all-time scoring record (1,286 points set by Don Liestman in 1958) this winter, barring injury.

Injuries have already affected the boys' team this winter. Senior Ben Moser, who was second on the team in scoring last year (10.8 points per game), recently had minor knee surgery and could miss several weeks; senior Sam Bayer broke his hand in the final football game and will miss the season; senior Michael Houske is still recovering from a car accident and has missed practice so far due to illness; and sophomore Jamison Wall is recovering from a knee injury.

With 32 players in grades 9-12, the Dogs have good numbers, especially in the ninth grade and sophomore classes, said Carlson.

In addition to Nietfeld and Moser, senior Elliott Wall and sophomore Nathan Nietfeld started games for the Dogs last year.

"The Nietfeld Brothers," according to Carlson, will see duty both inside and outside - at both guard and post - this year.

Seniors Randy Leyendecker, Tyler Zimmerman, and Houske along with juniors Ted Hoffman and Colin Spooner will play guard this year, while Moser, Wall, junior Alex Svejkovsky, and sophomores Shane Kampsen and Mitch Marlow will play forward and post.

With preseason practice just a week old, Carlson said the starting lineup is not set, nor will it stay set for the entire season.

The Dogs will play man-to-man defense, said Carlson, while mixing in some zone to take advantage of their length. They may press when they can if they get healthy and have enough depth.

"Everybody has come focused and intense in practice," said Carlson. "The guys are challenging each other. We've had good leadership from the seniors."

When it comes to competition, Carlson said the Dogs will "take it game by game" and feel they can compete with every team on their schedule. Last year, the Dogs finished 8-16, upset Howard Lake-Waverly in the first round of the subsection playoffs, and reached the subsection semifinals for the first time since 1998.

The West Central Conference North should be filled with quality teams again this year, and because of this parity, the Dogs will need to be ready to play every night, said Carlson, who lists Melrose and New London-Spicer as conference favorites.

NL-S and Eden Valley-Watkins are the subsection favorites, according to Carlson, who wants the Dogs to win at least two playoff games this year.

One of his goals is for the Dogs to peak at playoff time. "Hard work does pay off," he said, "and these guys have worked hard."

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