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One game down, Raiders looking forward to many more

Richardton-Taylor junior guard Wyatt Kuhn dribbles up the court in a regular-season game against Dickinson Trinity on Monday, Jan. 15, from the Richardton-Taylor High School. (Patrick Bernadeau/The Dickinson Press)

After watching his players perform in their first game of the season, first-year Richardton-Taylor head coach Bryan Floberg believes the scoreboard doesn't tell the entire story.

The Raiders were on the wrong side of runs at the end of the second quarter and the middle of the fourth against Bowman County, but remained competitive in other portions of an 83-59 defeat during the first round of the Roughrider Tournament on Tuesday, Dec. 11, from the Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

Even with the lopsided loss, Floberg was encouraged with his team's efforts.

"We looked better than we did last year," Floberg said. "I thought they played hard and finished the game hard. We just have a couple of things we have to fix and go over in practice; we have to rebound better and run our offense better, but we'll be fine."

The team's best performer in the opener was senior Collin Kuntz. The 6-foot-2 forward brought consistency on both sides of the floor, tallying team-highs with 18 points and seven rebounds. Kuntz will be the focal point, but Floberg is optimistic of the rest of the supporting cast.

"We have five guys on the floor that can score, but he's the one we are looking for inside," Floberg said of Kuntz. "He's a powerhouse inside. He's a heck of ballplayer, but also we have four on the floor all the time that can help him out and spread the floor."

Overall, the Raiders feature five other seniors who will get the brunt of the minutes. Kuntz is joined in the frontcourt with 6-foot-3 center Logan Kuntz and 6-foot-3 forward Logan Hoff. Guards Preston Floberg, Elijah Vogle and Wyatt Kuhn will provide more offensive punch, particularly from the outside.

Juniors Conner Kuntz, Britton Paulson, Skyler Heiser and Gaite Gebhardt shore up a bench that adds depth into the team's equation.

Defensively, the team will play an aggressive 1-3-1 zone defense that collapses on the inside and occasionally trap players on the perimeter. To execute that pressure through the course of the 32-minute contest, the players put an emphasis on becoming physically fit.

"We got in the gym a lot and really worked in the weight room," Collin Kuntz said. "We're a lot stronger than we were last year, and I think we'll be way better this year."

Struggling to a 5-17 record last season, Richardton-Taylor lost games by an average of 20 points. However, after a successful year on the football field, the team enters the basketball season with confidence.

The Raiders won a first-round game during the 9-man state playoffs. With many of those same players also on the basketball roster, the team hopes to carry that momentum into another playoff run.

"The goal is to be in the top three in the region," Collin Kuntz said. "You got Trinity and Bowman, and you know they are going to be very tough, but I think we can be right up there in the region."

The coach's target is to avoid the regional tournament play-in game. But before the team can think the postseason, Bryan Floberg is focused on the short term, hoping to transition his players' eagerness to play into steady improvement.

"They've been really excited in practice; they've been waiting for this all summer long," Floberg said. "They've been looking forward to the first game, and now that they got one under our belt, we can go on from there."

Patrick Bernadeau

Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press. He can be reached at his office number (701) 456-1211 or email him at pbernadeau@thedickinsonpress.com. Joining the Dickinson Press in July 2017, he was previously a freelance sports writer for Treasure Coast Newspapers (TCPalm.com) in Stuart, FL as well as carrying bylines from the Associated Press, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, Florida Today and Naples Daily News. Prior to his move to Dickinson, he resided in Port St. Lucie, FL, earning a Bachelor's Degree from Florida Atlantic University. Patrick was born and raised in Brockton, Mass and is an avid Boston sports fan. Born to Haitian parents, Patrick's favorite meal is Griot with Banana Peze, Pikliz (Fried pork with smashed plaintains and a spicy vegetable relish) and a tall glass of Cherry Coke.

(701) 456-1211