BY DAVE PEDERSEN
It was one of those years that Delano boys basketball coach Terry Techam hopes can repeat itself and the Tigers can earn a return trip to the state tournament.
The Tigers finished the great season at 26-4, 12-3 in the Wright County Conference, earning the school’s first state tourney berth in 20 years. Delano lost to St. Paul Johnson in the first round at state, but had the chance to play in Williams Arena.
Two standout starters return, including 6-2 senior guard Toby Hanson, a three-year starter and two-time All-Conference selection who cleared the 1,000-point milestone for his career last season.
A proven winner, Hanson led the team in scoring the past two years. He also has played in three state baseball tournaments and recently helped the Tigers advance to the state football tourney as the quarterback.
The other starter back is 6-6 senior forward Damon Longstreet, a two-year starter who averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last year.
“We only return two players with a lot of varsity experience, so we will need some players from last year’s junior varsity to step in and fill those spots,” said Techam. “Hopefully, by the end of the year we will be a tough team to deal with.”
Players looking to fill varsity spots are seniors Seth Norling and Seth MacLeod, juniors Sean Campbell, James Otto, Austin Neisen, Jason McDonald and Lucas Clements, plus sophomores Matt Kreklow Nate Norman and Logan Pulis.
Techam says teams to beat in the conference are Waconia, Holy Family and Orono. Section favorites are Big Lake, Orono and St. Cloud Apollo.
The Tigers opened the season in New Ulm Nov. 27, after this issue went to press. The first home game is 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30 against Watertown-Mayer, who defeated Rockford 66-61 Friday. Delano also is home against New Prague Dec. 3 and Monticello Dec. 5.
Girls basketball also returns some proven winners with six players from the volleyball team that recently secured the second place trophy at state.
Coach Amy Gould has some top scorers back to lead, plus some promising newcomers. Last season the Tigers finished 16-12 overall, 7-8 in the Wright County Conference. The team lost in the section semifinals in double overtime to Dassel-Cokato.
The top returning scorer is 6-1 junior Alex Wittinger, who has qualified for the state track meet three times and was a leader on the state runner-up volleyball team. Also back are juniors Bria Barfnecht, Kalley Koch and Brooke Lemke, who also played volleyball. The captains are senior Gabrielle Mielke, Koch and Wittinger.
Gould says top newcomers are ninth-graders Erin Norling and Tori Hanson, who were key factors on the volleyball team. Competing for varsity playing time is seniors Coco Arens and Brooke Dormanen, plus juniors Michelle Endersbe, Makenna Giese, Tayler Hedtke and Greta Halonen. There are no sophomores on the varsity roster.
“Goals are to improve what we already do well, contend for the conference title, garner a 20-win season and play our best basketball at tournament time,” offers Gould.
Teams to beat in the league are Orono, Waconia, Holy Family and New London-Spicer. Section favorites are Orono and Monticello.
The first game is part of a home double header with the boys, facing Mayer Lutheran at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30. The Tigers travel to Sauk Rapids-Rice Dec. 5 before coming home to face St. Cloud Apollo Dec. 6. The rivalry game against Rockford is at home Dec. 12.