Night Hawks looking to fill big and small voids
As is the case for many of the schools in the area, the Hettinger-Scranton boys basketball team graduated a number of seniors, losing five from a squad that had a 19-5 record and captured third place in the Region 7 Tournament.
The Night Hawks lost much of their size in the frontcourt, but their two biggest losses happen to be two of the smaller players on last year's roster: graduating 5-foot-8-inch All-Region guard Jarad Mattis and 5-foot-8-inch Isaiah Kludt, who closed out his career with back-to-back nods on the All-State second team. Hettinger-Scranton is in search of production.
"Isaiah was a four-year starter. He was the engine that made our team go, that's for sure. He was the type of player that made everyone around him better," Night Hawks head coach Jeremy Dietchman said. "With Jarad, he was a two-year starter and two-time All-Region selection. For his size, he was probably one of the better pound-for-pound players I've been able to coach. ... We'll miss both of their leadership ability, tremendously."
With the heart and soul of their team gone, the Night Hawks intend to rebuild around a pair of 6-footers who played significant minutes a year ago: senior forward Jacob Dix and sophomore forward Jeran Anderson.
Dix specializes in defense and is a strong rebounder while operating out of the post position, offensively. Counting on Dix to increase his scoring load, Dietchman anticipates he will do well taking over leadership responsibilities.
As for Anderson, it's less about how well he's played to this point and more about his upside.
"Jaren Anderson has the potential to be one of the better players in the region," Dietchman said. "He's probably one of our tallest players and is probably going to play point guard for us. Tremendous athletic ability, and he's made tremendous strides over the last couple of years for us."
Other returners include sparkplug senior guard Gabriel Eaton, junior forward Brady Dillon, sophomore guard Warrick Dilse and his twin, rugged sophomore forward Connor Dilse.
Senior forward Jaxon Mellmer, another 6-footer, was expected to be another reliable contributor, but he'll sit out the year after suffering a torn ACL playing football in the fall. The lost of Mellmer is a crucial blow for a team lacking height in the middle.
"We've never really been real big, but this year I would say that we're going to be vastly undersized in a lot of games that we play," Dietchman said. "To counteract that, we are going to have kids that are going to play extremely hard. We are going to have to work our tails off in the rebounding end and defending the post. We're probably going to have to do a few different things on defense than we normally do, play a bit more zone than we are used to playing and double down on the post."
Dietchman is more confident in the offense, believing that he has multiple kids who can put the ball in the hoop either through transition or in the half-court. Also, he believes that this team is a work in progress and hopes it can improve over time. If it can, the coach thinks Hettinger-Scranton can make some noise come playoff time.
"Overall, I'd say our region is going to be very, very competitive. ... But I think if we get our kids playing the right style that we need to, getting a win in the quarterfinals of the regional tournament is a realistic goal for us," Dietchman said. "And once you get to the semifinal night of the regional tournament, anything can happen."