With the previous season falling short of expectations, the Independence Mustangs varsity basketball team is looking to get back to their winning ways.
Independence head coach Chad Beatty said he hopes to have the team buy into the motto, “We over Me,” with each player taking quality shots, defending and rebounding at a high level.
“Two years ago, we were senior heavy with guys who played with grit, passion and a burning desire to compete,” Beatty said. “Those guys learned to accept their roles and became tighter as a team as the year went on. We ended the year with 15 wins. I believe this group can be real similar as we have some offensive pieces that on paper are hands down better than two years ago and definitely better than last season.”
Last season’s team finished 3-19 and lost leading scorer Sean Geertsema, who averaged 11.5 points per game.
However, the Mustangs will return Second Team All-Conference senior Logan Schmitt and two WAMAC Honorable Mention players, seniors Blake Bartz and Ethan McCormick.
“I feel like we will be a better offensive team as we will be more diverse and balanced,” Beatty said. “We return four of our top six scorers from last year’s team, three of those four were WAMAC All-Conference.”
Independence will also look for contributions from forward Jared Jensen, forward Brayden Holt, guard Koby Beatty, forward Koby Donley, forward Jesse Ludwig and guard Cameron Ridder.
Beatty said he anticipates seniors to fill his starting lineup to open the season, but performances in practice will determine playing time.
“I anticipate Kaleb Lamphier and Logan Schmitt will lead us by example daily, while Blake Bartz has really improved his vocal communication on the court this past summer and fall,” Beatty said.
With many of the players on the varsity squad also part of the football team that won the district title, Beatty said he anticipates that success will instill confidence and attitude this winter for basketball.
“Many of our basketball guys were making big plays on Friday nights and made a huge impact on offense in the recent nine-win football season,” Beatty said. “Getting them from football mode into a basketball mindset will be a process, while getting a ball in these guys hands five or six days a week will be really advantageous.”
Beatty anticipates Benton, Central DeWitt, Clear Creek-Amana and Mt. Vernon to be the toughest teams in the WAMAC Conference.
“I think our opener against West Delaware is an important game for the fact that we need to get the season started with some confidence,” Beatty said. “Oelwein, Vinton, Williamsburg and Charles City all took close games from us last season. So, it would be great to get the upper hand on those teams this season.”