WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South is taking the approach of “we’re the defending Cross County Conference champions and somebody will have to take that away from us.”
Despite losing four of five starters from a team that went 20-4 and was 11-1 in the CCC, veteran coach Tony Augspurger, believes his team is making progress.
“We’re going into this year with the belief that we’re the defending champions in our league and somebody is going to have to take it away from us,” Augspurger, who is entering his 33rd and final season as the Panthers coach, said. “Now, that might happen in week one or two, but they’re going to have to do it. We’re going out with that mindset that we are going to defend our crown. We will at least battle.”
Returning for the Panthers are seniors Cole Petersen and Ryan Delong, along with junior Brayden Marker.
“I feel were making progress defensively. We’re not going to set any school scoring records whatsoever. I do believe that we have a chance to surprise people,” Augspurger said. “We got one starter back and two other dudes back who played, probably a total of 350-400 minutes between them for the season. However, I like how were doing things. I like how were working. I think that we have some guys, given more opportunity, can shine.”
Petersen is the lone starter back.
“He was our inside presence,” Augspurger said. “Cole’s got a chance to be really good. He put time in. He is a little bit like a few other guys I’ve had in my career that has both potential to score inside and out. Right now, the only thing slowing Cole down is Cole. He’s putting a little pressure on himself. He’s just got to let himself relax and use his ability that he’s worked really hard to get. I think Cole’s got a chance to be one of the best players in our league and one of the best players around.
Marker and Delong came off the bench last year.
“They played less than 10 minutes a night. So, basically, we have one returning starter and two guys who got their feet wet and they were playing on a team that was winning,” Augspurger said. “That’s a great thing to have that those three guys played on a team that won and came through and played really well together.”
Marker will be back at his point guard position.
“It’s where he played as a younger player, but was off of that for our varsity last year. He is a good athlete and I think has, again, I think Cole and Brayden both have chances to be very good players. If we’re going to be good, a big part of it will be that the two of them are playing well. Brayden’s got to play with a little more confidence,” Augspurger said.
Delong will give the team another solid inside presence.
“Ryan Delong had a really good summer for us. I thought that of our guys that played summer basketball, Ryan was the one I that I felt played the closest to his potential. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s just got to be able to use it. I think he did enough positive things for us in varsity basketball games last year that he gained some confidence that he lost from struggling some as a younger high school player. He’s a good counter to Cole,” Augspurger said.
New this season is senior Aaron Clark, who has never played high school basketball.
“He’s got a pretty good feel for the game and I think Aaron, in my mind, has got a definite chance to help us. He’s a pretty good athlete. He’s pretty sound in all ways. He’s going to help with the ball handling. He’s got a chance to be a good defender. He just has to learn what he’s doing the way I want him to do things more. I think he can be a real surprise,” Augspurger said.
Chris Keener didn’t play last year as a junior, but is returning for his senior season.
“He’s doing things that say ‘give me a chance to get on the floor some.’ I think Chris has got a chance to help us some defensively,” Augspurger said.
Rounding out the roster are three juniors – Levi Gearhart, Tyler Wright and Mike Crews – who played junior varsity last season.
“I’m feeling pretty good about all them during our first three weeks of practice in terms of being ready to help us.”
Augspurger said he believes National Trail and Arcanum return the most, but noted Tri-Village, Miami East and Tri-County North could compete for the league title as well.
“To me, on paper, Trail and Arcanum are the two teams that have the most back. Both have really good coaches. You’ve got to look at the two of them and say ‘they’re a load.’” Augspurger said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or follow on Twitter @emowen_RH