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Paynesville Press - November 30, 2005

Boys to open season against Kimball at SCSU

By Michael Jacobson

With all five starters back and with increased depth at the varsity level, coach Phil Carlson hopes the Bulldogs can take a big stop forward in 2005-06. With 36 players in grades 9-12, the program has as much depth as he's seen in five years, including four as head coach.

How that translates into wins and losses has yet to be seen, but Carlson is hopeful that the varsity seasoning and competition for playing time could enable the team to challenge in the West Central Conference North.

The Dogs will open their season on Saturday at 6 p.m. with a varsity game against the Kimball Cubs at Hallenbeck Hall on the campus of St. Cloud State University. Carlson said the Dogs tried to schedule a game at SCSU last year before a Huskies men's game but could not find a willing partner. This year, Kimball agreed to play the varsity game at SCSU with the B- and C-squads traveling to Kimball on Tuesday, Dec. 6, for their games.

Tickets - which also are good for the SCSU-Dakota St. game following Paynesville-Kimball - are $10 for adults and $5 for students at the door, or they can be purchased from Carlson or from athletic director Kyle Nehowig in advance for $7 for adults and $3 for students.

The Dogs - who lost only two seniors to graduation, as well as junior Mike Houske to injury - return their top six scorers from last year: junior Cory Nietfeld (15.8 points per game); junior Ben Moser (11.9 ppg); senior Mark Andrie (5.8 ppg); senior Derek Stanger (5.0 ppg); senior Aaron Braun (4.8 ppg); and senior Trent Hansen (3.6 ppg). Since Stanger was out with injury and illness part of last season, all six started at least part of the season, meaning the Dogs have competition for starting spots this year.

In addition, juniors Sam Bayer and Elliott Wall are challenging for starting spots, and seniors Harrison Fangmeier and Matt Mergen figure to contribute to the varsity. Carlson said some underclassmen could move into varsity spots this year, too.

That depth should prove useful with the new rule switching games from four eight-minute quarters to two 18-minute halves.

Carlson said the Dogs have the luxury of some height this year with Nietfeld (6' 3"), a three-year starter, at point guard and Braun (6' 2"), Fangmeier (6' 9"), Moser (6' 7"), and Stanger (6' 2") in the post. They are using a post-based offense, and Carlson also plans to add a motion offense to use with a quicker lineup.

The Dogs will mix zone defense, using their height, with man-to-man defense, said Carlson, who hopes that tough defense will lead to transition points. He calls the fastbreak "the best offense in the world."

What the Dogs must prove is that they can win close games and win games on the road. Carlson - who is assisted by B-squad coach Ross Englestad and C-squad coach Riley Flanders - said they have been stressing not beating themselves in preseason practice, which began on Monday, Nov. 21. To win close games, the Dogs will need to limit turnovers, not force shots, and make their free throws down the stretch, he said.

The Dogs, who were 3-20 last year, including 0-10 in the WCC North, have the talent to compete in the conference, said Carlson, but must prove they can on the court.

"We're going to take it one game at a time," said Carlson. "We need to concentrate on defense and intensity."

The WCC North figures to be strong again in boys' hoops, with New London-Spicer and Minnewaska joining the north half in 2005-06. "Both programs are pretty solid," said Carlson, "especially NL-S recently. They've lost some good players, but they've always got good numbers."

Melrose, the two-time WCC North champ who lost to two-time state champion Braham in the playoffs, figures to be the conference favorite again, according to Carlson.

The Dogs could improve enough to challenge for the conference, Carlson figures. "I think we have the talent to do that," he said.

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