Boys basketball: Team chemistry a focus for young Bobcats

FLORENCE, Wis. — The senior-laden Florence Bobcats from the 2017 boys basketball season have a new look for 2018.

“We are just very young,” said Florence coach Bryan Bomberg. “I keep trying to empathize every day in practice our terminology, getting better and the understanding that basketball knows no age. What you put in, you will get out.”

Florence, which graduated eight players, returns five with limited experience from last season (12-10 overall, 9-5 Northern Lakes Conference)

“Right now we are working on team chemistry and getting comfortable with each other,” said Bomberg, citing learning strengths and areas we need to improve. “As always, we want to have an aggressive mindset on the defensive end and control the boards.

“Overall, with what we lost last year, and what we return in terms of experience, we can only go up. It’s going to be a learning year for us all. Returning no significant amount of experience will be a challenge and through practice we are figuring out who is going to lead for us.”

Florence graduated three All-NLC performers in Nathan Krueger (first team), Dylan McLain (second team) and Glenn Berry (honorable mention) along with Lance Davis, Jay Walstrom, Caleb Jones, Nick Dishaw and Devin Dumke.

“All eight of those seniors played a major role on our squad from a year ago,” Bomberg said. “We will not be able to replace those lost to graduation. However, we have a young squad that is ready to get to work and leave their mark.”

Evan Beaster, Riley Hixon, Kaden Schuls, Lucas Krueger and Hunter Browning are back from last season.

“All of them saw very little varsity action last year as their primary roles were on the junior varsity,” Bomberg said. “They were moved up towards the later part of the season. I expect all of them to make an immediate impact on this year’s squad.”

Bomberg said “leadership on the court will be a key to our success.”

“I am pleased with our effort in practice and how focused we are in getting better each day,” Bomberg said. “I really am looking forward to working with this group and seeing how much we grow this season. The potential is there.”

Florence opens at non-conference rival Niagara on Tuesday. The Bobcats travel to Phelps on Friday, Dec. 1, at Phelps.

“I look for Crandon, Laona-Wabeno and Phelps to be tough opponents in our conference this year,” Bomberg said. “I feel for us each night in conference play is going to be a battle.”

In addition to two games with Niagara, athletic director Kris Johnson has added other M&O teams in Coleman, Lena, Wausaukee and STAA along with two Michigan foes.

“Our non-conference schedule will be challenging,” Bomberg said. “It will be exciting to play different caliber teams and the different styles of plays that each opponent challenges us with.”

With Johnson stepping down as junior varsity coach and assistant to Bomberg, Todd Kowalkowski will move into those roles for the 2018 season.

“Todd has years of experience,” Bomberg noted.

This year’s roster:

SENIOR — Wesson McLain

JUNIORS — Gary Liebergen, Evan Beaster, Hunter Browning

SOPHOMORES — Lucas Krueger, Paul Millan, Noah Schuirmann, Kaden Schuls, Riley Hixon, Toby Wheeler, Kobe Hodgson