WEST ALEXANDRIA — During many of the past 29 seasons, Tony Augspurger’s basketball teams at Twin Valley South have have been very skilled offensively.
But the past few seasons the Panthers have relied more on their abilities at the defensive end of the floor for their success.
This season will be no different.
“I think we are similar to where we’ve been the past two years in that we are going to be undersized and are not as offensively skilled as some of the teams we’ve historically had,” Augspurger said. “We are going to have to make up for that by being extremely tough and hard nosed on ‘D.’ If we defend like I believe we are capable, we will put ourselves in chances to win games.”
The Panthers return just one starter and five letter-winners from last year’s 13-10 (7-5 Cross County Conference) team.
Mike Meyers was South’s third leading scorer averaging 9.0 points per game and second leading rebounder at 4.7 rebounds a contest.
“He got off to a slow start but played very well for us down the stretch. We are hoping that Mike can be an outstanding scorer for us this year as he has range to shoot the three but also a good touch around the basket,” Augspurger said. “If we are going to be successful, we need Mike to play up to the level of ability that he has as a scorer.”
The Panthers have four other lettermen returning who played significant minutes last year — seniors Jared Cottingim and Andrew Augspurger and juniors Ryan Bassler and Travis Lovely.
“At least to start the season, I expect the five returning players to be our starting line up. Jared is a guy who played very well in middle school and early high school but struggled some with confidence last year. He’s had a good pre-season for us. Andrew is a tough, hard-nosed blue-collar, do-the-dirty-work player for us,” Augspurger said. “He’s an excellent undersized inside defender and rebounder, who has more offensive ability than what he has historically shown. For both of these guys, playing with confidence is a huge key.”
“Ryan will be our starting point guard and is strong and tough,” Augspurger said. “He is easily one of the most competitive kids around and that helps him to go out and be a good leader for us. Travis is a big key because he has a chance to be a better post scorer than we’ve had the past two seasons. He’s a bit undersized but is a determined rim attacker. We need him to continue to finish better and to shoot free throws with confidence, because he’s going to draw them.”
According to Augspurger, newcomers on the varsity roster include seniors Payton Gates and Matt Bowers, and juniors Bryant Marker and Jacob Wells.
“Payton has missed the whole pre-season with injury. We hope to get him back after the first week. He has a chance to help us as a scorer and I’m hoping when he comes back he’s healthy enough for his excellent athleticism to be a factor. Troy is one of the kind of kids who has played well for us over the years in that he is hard-nosed, quick and defensive minded. He’s struggled as a younger player with being out of control offensively, but I feel he had a good summer and a good preseason working on not trying to do too much offensively,” Augspurger said. “Bryant is a guy that could be a good shooter with some more consistency and who we are trying to work on getting tougher on the defensive end. Jacob Wells is a good athlete that we are working on trying to get to use his athleticism more efficiently, especially on defense.”
The Panthers will host their own tip-off tournament this weekend to open the season. Eaton will play National Trail in the opener at 6 p.m. on Friday, while South will battle Dixie in the second game at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the junior varsity contests will begin at 3 p.m., with Eaton playing Trail, followed by South and Dixie at 4:30 p.m. The varsity consolation game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the title game is set for 7:30 p.m.
The junior varsity consolation and championship games are scheduled for Monday at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH