McAuley Catholic boys basketball has the luxury of suiting up four players who saw time in the starting lineup a year ago.
“We are very excited to get our season underway,” McAuley coach Tony Witt said. “We had a good summer, learned some positive things about ourselves and we have been waiting to get back into the gym since.”
After a 7-20 campaign last season, the Warriors are ready to take the next step towards success thanks to their returning experience led by senior guard Rocco Bazzano-Joseph, an all-Ozark 7 Conference Honorable Mention honoree in his third year starting on varsity. Also back to the starting lineup for the first year is senior F Bradley Wagner and junior PG Mchael Parrigon. Sophomore C Alex Bohachick is also back to the starting lineup.
“We return a lot of experience with Rocco, Bradley and Michael,” said Witt, who is entering his fourth season as head coach. “They have been the foundation for us for the past two seasons. We have three other returners as well as some talented newcomers who will help us right away. We will probably have some growing pains early but if we can take care of the ball and defend like we are capable of, hopefully we will get better every day and start to gel at the right time.”
Junior G Tripp Miller and sophomore G Connor Taffner both are back to the varsity team to provide depth.
McAuley’s bench will have some depth this season with six newcomers joining the varsity level. The Warriors rotational depth will be made up of senior guards Chase Gardner and Nic Svec, junior F Brek Sickman and sophomores Liam Buerge (G/F), Max Anreder (F) and Trae Veer (G).
The defensive side of the court will be the biggest catalyst for the Warriors this season, with Coach Witt hoping McAuley can improve on the already-strong numbers from a season ago.
“Team defense will be one of our biggest strengths,” Witt said. “Our overall team toughness, speed and length is better than a year ago as well. We held teams to 45.1 points per game last season and this team is capable of guarding at a high level as well.”
Of course, if McAuley is to take the next step, finishing the season .500 or better, then there will need to be improvement on the offensive end.
“We have some guys who can score, which hasn’t been something that we have had in the past,” Witt said. “How quickly we can recognize when and where we need to get those guys the ball will be key.”
“We need to be better offensively,” Witt added. “We turned the ball over 16 times a game last year and lost 11 games by 32 points total, with 9 of those 11 games being decided in the final four minutes. We are going to make mistakes, but we need to do a better job of the silly and careless mistakes that cost us games a year ago.”
McAuley kicks the season off on the road, traveling to Liberal on Tuesday.
“For us to be the best version of ourselves, there are three areas that we must address immediately,” Witt said about his team’s keys to success this season. “Defensively, we will collectively need to guard the basketball with the tenacity that we are capable of, especially communication. Offensively, we will have to cut down on turnovers, and we have to finish games.”