By Chris Bennett

Correspondent

The Elkhorn Area High School boys basketball team is opening a new chapter in its history – kind of.

The Elks are starting their first campaign under new coach Josh Skatrud. Skatrud spent the last seven years at Elkhorn as the boys junior varsity coach and a varsity assistant.

Skatrud takes over for John Handel, who coached for 17 seasons. Handel led the Elks Handel led the program to six Southern Lakes Conference titles and four appearances in the WIAA Sectional finals, just one game shy of state. The Elks won their most recent SLC title in 2009.

The program struggled in recent years. The Elks’ best finishes since 2009 are identical seasons of 12-11 in 2010-2011 and again in 2011-2012. Elkhorn’s record in the SLC is below .500 in each campaign since 2009.

The Elks finished 2014 with an overall record of 9-15 and went 4-10 and finished sixth in the Southern Lakes Conference.

The Elks won a postseason game for the first time in five years when they defeated Delavan-Darien 55-40 Feb. 25 in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal at Elkhorn.

The Elks’ 2014 campaign ended Feb. 28 with a 59-41 loss to McFarland at McFarland in the regional final.

Prior to the victory, the Elks last posted a win in the postseason on March 13, 2009, when Elkhorn defeated Verona 64-56 in overtime in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal game at Janesville Craig.

“I know last year we didn’t have as many wins as we would like,” Skatrud said.          “I learned a lot from Coach Handel in the last seven years. Coming in, it’s going to be a balance of me taking a lot of what’s worked and what’s been successful and making it my own.”

On offense the Elks are going to run the Horns Offense, a pick-and-roll based offense that utilizes skilled big men and can be used as an entry point into multiple other offenses.

“Keep the ball moving and get the best look is my philosophy,” Skatrud said.

Defensively, Skatrud said the Elks will default to man to man.

“I’d like to get up and see if we can put some more pressure on other teams and try to make them uncomfortable with the basketball,” Skatrud said. “It requires communication and unselfish defense.”

A solid group of guards returns for Skatrud. Chief among them is Aaron Wales, who earned Honorable Mention All-Southern Lakes Conference honors as a junior. Wales is one of seven seniors on the Elks’ roster.

“He’s a very, very good defender and he shoots the ball well,” Skatrud said of Wales.

Cody Johnson and Jon Wulff, both seniors, are also back. Skatrud said both played a lot of minutes last season and return this season.

Senior Joe Konopski and sophomore Alex Easterday are the options inside. Senior Matt Ambelang is also back.

Seniors Grady Welsh and Griffin Sweeney, juniors Dayne Fisher and Shane Piasecki and sophomores Ryan Shilts round out the roster.

“I think we’ve got a nice mix,” Skatrud said. “I don’t see why we can’t be, at the very least, competitive in all of our games.”

Skatrud said he does not see a dominant team this season in the SLC, and said Badger and Burlington should both be competitive.

“I don’t know if there is a clear-cut favorite,” Skatrud said. “I don’t think there is a team that is head and shoulders above the rest, but there is not a team where you can go in and know you’re going to beat them twice.

“I think, conference-wise, we can beat everyone in the conference this year. There is no team we are not capable of beating. I think we’ll finish in the top half, and that’s the safest prediction we can make.”

Elkhorn opens its season Saturday in a non-conference contest at home against Verona. The Elks open their SLC season Dec. 9 at Westosha Central.

 

 

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