By Dan Truttschel

Correspondent

Ask any high school coach for a pre-season goal and they’re likely to respond that winning a conference title is at the top of the list.

When it comes to the Big Foot boys basketball program in 2014-15, that’s the target in the Chiefs’ sights.

Now it’s up to them to make it happen.

Big Foot posted an 8-16 overall record and a 6-10 mark in the Rock Valley Conference a year ago, but is on its way to turning that around.

“So far, (it hasn’t been) too bad,” Big Foot coach Mike Dowden said. “We are really athletic, but we will have to work on scoring on the offensive end. I’ve been very happy with our progress and our work ethic so far.”

One of the keys to making a run at the Rock Valley Conference crown, Dowden said, is for his team to turn close losses into hard-fought victories.

If that happens, the Chiefs will be on their way.

“We should compete on a nightly basis, but will have to improve at finishing games,” Dowden said. “If we can get teams to play our way, I feel very confident. If we play their way, it could vary night to night.”

Big Foot is a senior-laden squad this year, with eight players entering their final high school seasons.

Seniors on the roster are Nigel Manning (6-0), Anthony Williams (5-11), Chandler Hehr (6-0), Alex Landers (5-11), Brett Morris (6-2), Will Huerth (6-0), Jonah Glade (6-0) and Nico Tovar (6-3).

Joining that crew are juniors Mark Schauf (6-1), Michael Heidenreich (6-0), Zak Greco (6-0) and Foster Isham (6-2); and sophomore Beau Cary (6-5).

Dowden feels like he can use any number of combinations on the floor, which should give his team an advantage.

“We could play up to 10-plus (guys) a night and not lose a lot going from one lineup to the next,” he said.

Tovar is the top returning scorer from a year ago after he averaged 6.9 points per game. Landers was next at 5.3, followed by Greco a 3.3, Cary a 2.9, Hehr at 2.3 and Huerth at 2.2.

The Chiefs need someone to take the next step to replace the scoring they lost to graduation last year, Dowden said.

“(One of our weaknesses is a) lack of a go-to guy down the stretch,” he said. “We will have to develop someone who will be the go-to guy in tight games or may have to do this by committee.”

As for who will lead this team, Dowden said that verdict is still up for grabs.

And he isn’t necessarily looking for just one person to fill that role – it could come down to several.

“I have seen quite few leaders, but not one focal leader,” Dowden said. “I’ve been very impressed with their desire to improve and work nightly and hope we can lead by a group.

“We need leaders who ‘drive the bus.’ They need to pull us along in practice and at games, especially as the season gets long.”

Aiming for the top

Parkview enters the year as the defending RVC champion, but Dowden said his picks for 2014-15 are Beloit Turner and Clinton.

Where the Chiefs fit in remains to be seen, but they won’t shy away from the challenge of trying to fight their way to the top, Dowden said.

“We want to compete for the conference title,” he said. “We might need a few breaks, but we believe.”

Not that he expects that to be an easy task – nothing like a title ever is, Dowden said.

“(We need to) show up on a nightly basis,” he said. “We are not good enough to just show up for a game, a practice or a drill. We need to work as hard as we can on every play and let them all add up to our success.”

Big Foot opens its season Saturday when it hosts Shorewood at 7:15 p.m. The Chiefs begin RVC action Dec. 4 against visiting Parkview, also at 7:15 p.m.

 

 

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