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Column: Eagles need to believe in change, Chargers and Greyhounds roll

At 0-3 following their 69-55 non-conference loss Tuesday to Watertown-Mayer, New Ulm Eagles’ first year head boys’ basketball coach Matt Dennis said that his biggest concern early in the season is believing in change.

“Anytime you hit a road bump or start slow, you need to remember to keep your eyes on the end goal,” he said. “We are a very early work in progress. Our eyes are on late February and early March. We have a lot of growing to do so we will have ups and downs along the way.”

One of the concerns that the Eagles have right now is trying to find some scoring to help senior Reece Melby. Melby ended with 31 points Tuesday and is averaging 23.7 points a game three games into the season.

“We did have a nice night from Josh Wenninger (11 points),” Dennis said. “He knocked down some huge shots and we need that as it opens up the middle for us. But we are still looking for that added scoring and some nights we will look for it by committee. Right now, we are looking to see where we can get scoring from right now.”

Three games in, Wenninger and Isaiah Miller are each averaging 8.7 points per game.

In the Eagles’ first two games, turnovers really hurt New Ulm. But Dennis said that on Tuesday, the turnovers were down.

“They were not as bad as the first couple of nights,” he said. “But we were stagnant offensively (Tuesday). Reece had such a big night that some of our guys got caught staring and watching to see what Reece would do next. And that cannot happen — we need to rotate because teams are going to double team Reece. Last night Josh was able to take the ball and knock down shots. Our guys need to get to the area on the floor where they can score from — they need to be able to knock down their shots.”

Dennis said that he is not happy with his defense thus far.

“We are not consistent there and the biggest thing we have to realize is that defense is an every possession thing,” he said. “Other team’s offenses will find when you are taking a possession off defensively. Playing defense is not a part-time task. Defense is going to have to be our strength because we are going to have to stop people.We need to keep teams around 60 points or less a game. Until we get that done, it will be very difficult to win.

“We need to find some players who want to shine to help Reece,” Dennis added. “We need to be able to move on offense. If you don’t move, you are not going to get open and get great shots because every shot will be covered.”

The Eagles, who play at Fairmont Thursday, may get some offensive (and defensive help) with the return of senior Cole Rhode. Senior Brody Bolduan will be back on Saturday for the Eagles’ Big South Conference Showcase game against Worthington at 10 a.m. in Fairmont.

GREYHOUNDS GET BIG WIN: It is only three games into the season, but the New Ulm Cathedral boys’ basketball team got a big conference and section win when they erased an 11-point Springfield lead to defeat a very good Tigers team 71-68 Tuesday.

“It is early in the year, it was a nice win, but we have a lot of areas to improve on as well,” Cathedral head coach Alan Woitas said. “And we look forward to battling them again (January 25) in Springfield.”

Cathedral got down by 11 points to the Tigers due in large part to the pressure of the Springfield defense.

“They try and get you out of your comfort zone and they did that in the first half and parts of the second half,” Woitas said. “But our guys never quit — they kept battling.”

Woitas said that the key to the comeback was the Greyhounds’ ability to rebound the ball better.

“We gave up to many second-chance points and we did a better job of taking care of the ball,” he said. “We were able to get the ball inside and create a presence in the lane. We have multiple guys we can go inside too — Kyle Goblirsch, Sam Knowles, Jon Zinniel, Chris Knowles. They can all post up and create some different mismatches. Being able to score both inside and outside gives you that dual threat.

“Starting 3-0 in the (Tomahawk) conference is nice and now we get ready for Thursday’s game against Mayer Lutheran.”

Cathedral then hosts St. Clair on Saturday, with the varsity game starting at 5 p.m.

Woitas did say that despite Sam Knowles leaving with an injury Tuesday, he thinks that he will be OK.

CHARGERS DOMINANT IN FOUR GAMES: The Minnesota Valley Lutheran boys’ basketball team has had its way with its first four opponents, winning by an average score of 79-52 after their 70-37 win over GFW Tuesday.

Two of the players who have played a big part in those games have been junior forward Kyreis Harrison and senior guard Dunwa Omot.

“Dunwa has done a nice job and really stepped it up,” Chargers head coach Craig Morgan said. “Last year he was right behind Jake (Kettner) with everything. He is a very quiet leader and he is very savy. And we saw it last year with Kyreis — he is strong and has a nose for the ball and a nose for the basket. The sky is the limit for him.”

Harrison had been recovering from a broken leg and had just started returning to basketball about a year ago.

“Kyreis is another strong body inside, but he is agile enough and quick enough that he can play out on the perimeter,” Morgan said.

Morgan added that his team has played hard and well so far.

“We have played hard and we have played well,” he said. “This group of guys share the ball well and they play off of each other. Mason (Cox) has become a force for us inside.

“We have depth — we have not had a game where I have played my starters all game. We could have had five guys in double figures if they all would have played all game.”

MVL next plays at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night at the Martin Luther College gym against West Lutheran in the MLC Tip-Off Tournament. The Chargers then play Manitowoc Lutheran at 8:15 p.m. Friday at MLC.

WILTSCHECK NAMED ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Former New Ulm girls’ hockey player Ashtyn Wiltscheck, now a freshman forward for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point women’s hocket team, has been named the WIAC (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) Athlete of the Week.

Wiltscheck has scored three goals and added two assists for the Pointers.

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