FASTBREAK: Expectations high with Blue Jay boys
Jamestown High School boys basketball didn't have an outstanding year on paper, but the state of North Dakota definitely took notice.
After a 12-14 record and an appearance at state in 2017-18, many are tabbing the Blue Jays as a favorite to win the West Region. Jamestown is ranked No. 2 in the Class A power poll, behind Fargo Davies, in The Hoopster.
"I'm feeling pretty good with how much experience we have coming back," said Jamestown coach Jacoby Lloyd. "Having eight seniors on the roster helps us focus on ways to get better.
"We're not too worried about what people were saying about us but we're constantly getting better and hopefully that carries into this season."
Jamestown initially made its mark during last season's West Region tournament, when it upset Mandan in the quarterfinals 70-67. The Blue Jays then defeated Bismarck St. Mary's 76-62 in the semifinals to clinch a spot at state. Jamestown fell to Bismarck Century, the eventual Class A champions, 71-29, in the WDA tournament championship game.
The Blue Jays were 12 seconds away from defeating West Fargo in the state quarterfinals, but the Packers' Luke Lennon took advantage of a defensive miscue to send the game to overtime. West Fargo's Joe Pistorus and Abdi Sufi scored the go-ahead buckets to prevail 85-81.
Jamestown would go on to lose to St. Mary's 16 hours later in a loser-out game by a score of 77-68.
"It's stayed with me for a long time, but it motivates me to make sure we're doing the little things and the small intangible things we have to focus on," Lloyd said. "We're pretty disappointed with how things ended, but that's how it goes. Sometimes you get the bounces, rebounds and plays to go your way and sometimes you don't."
The offseason was equally exciting for the star duo of Mason Walters and junior Boden Skunberg, who combined to average 31.3 points per game.
Walters earned Class A second team all-state honors a couple weeks after state concluded. In August, he committed to University of Jamestown. Skunberg announced his commitment to North Dakota State University men's basketball on Nov. 11 via Twitter.
"We both play really well together," Walters said. "Boden and I have been playing together since we were younger. We've both been on the same traveling team and kept playing during sophomore and junior year of high school."
Jamestown will also have a plethora of senior talent. Starters Dawson Douty (6.1 points per game) and Jared Kallenbach (7.5 ppg) will also be returning. Ryder Lunzman (5 ppg) and Noah Wegenast (2.7 ppg) also came off the bench and played significant minutes.
"From a scoring standpoint, it presents a unique challenge for people to guard us," Lloyd said. We also have players like Douty, Lunzman, Kallenbach and Wegenast that played really well last season."
There are five other WDA teams in the top 10 of The Hoopsters' preseason power power poll. Last year's champion Bismarck Century is No. 3, followed by Minot (5), Bismarck High (6), Mandan (7) and Bismarck Legacy (10). Jamestown's only non-conference game is against Valley City on Dec. 29.
"The WDA is always tough. Definitely every team gets ready to play every game and give their best effort," Lloyd said. "It's a senior-led conference where the best teams have the best seniors. Bismarck High, Minot, Mandan and Turtle Mountain have a good group.
"For us to have a successful season, we have to improve every day in practice and have a positive attitude because we won't win every game," Lloyd added. "We have to be better defensively than we were last year by staying focused for the full 30 seconds and boxing out."