Seth Dierkop, left, contests a shot from Tanner Nicklas during a drill in practice.

Seth Dierkop, left, contests a shot from Tanner Nicklas during a drill in practice.

Experience in Monte’s favor

Montesano’s boys have a lot to look forward to this year as an experienced team ranks as one of the Evergreen 1A League favorites.

A team primarily powered by junior and underclassmen was impressive in 2016-17 season and finished with 5-3 record in conference and 13-10 overall.

The Bulldogs showed a lot of promise last season but the quest to improve on last season’s record begins on Dec. 1 with a road game against Eatonville.

Bulldogs head coach Doug Galloway said bringing a high energy level on both ends of the court will be key this year.

“We got a lot experience back but we do want to see if we can push the ball and get after it defensively,” he said. “We’re really excited about the upcoming year.”

Trevor Ridgway figures to bring a lot of excitement to the court this year. Ridgway led the team in scoring last year with 12 points a game. L.J. Valley also emerged as a scoring threat with 9.7 points a game.

Last season’s Bulldogs even got scoring contributions from one if their freshman. Sam Winter was putting up nearly seven points a game in first year of high school basketball and the coaching staff is hoping he can build on last year’s success.

Another player who is hoping to literally come up big for his team this year is Tanner Nicklas. A freshman who was the one true center on the team last year is hoping a year of varsity experience and his 6-5 frame will lead to him playing an even bigger role on offense this year.

Galloway said that with a talented group of returners, he doesn’t see making any big alterations to the lineup before the season starts.

“There is always room for people to earn some more minutes, but we have a pretty good idea of who our starters are going to be,” he said.

Strong play from guards should help give the Bulldogs a scoring advantage on most nights and having one of the few big men in the league could create match up problems on offense and defense but Galloway said having players who are familiar with the speed and skill of varsity play should really put his team over the top.

“We have a number of kids who have played varsity basketball for a few years and we had two freshman play quite a bit last year and they’re sophomores now,” he said. “We played a lot of basketball over the summer too so I think experience is one of our strengths.”

One thing the Montesano boys basketball will have to do to maximize their strengths is to become accustomed to playing basketball again.

For some of Monte’s players the basketball season could not begin until the football season ended, causing the coaching staff to put an emphasis on getting back in “basketball shape” before the season opens.

As players lick their wounds after a long football season and get used to stepping back on the hardwood, Galloway said he sees a group of players that should compete for a league title.

“We’re shooting for the top like everybody is,” he said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to play a good league schedule and a good non-league schedule.”