Still growing, learning

It’s hard to tell if 6’5” Senior Logan Downs (right) is still growing but the Herders keep working to learn and grow after each game.
Phillip Harnden

Despite the Herders’ middleof- the-pack performance, coach Shawn Huxtable is happy with theirimprovement and hopeful for post season play.

“I think we have had a good season so far. We started the year with very little experience at the varsity level,” Huxtable said. “As the season has progressed and we have gained that valuable experience, our younger athletes have started to develop the confidence in themselves to play at the varsity level.”

Logan Downs has been an excellent leader and mentor for the younger kids, according to Huxtable. He helps them understand the speed of the game, how to attack the other team’s weakness, and has been a “coach on the court. The combination of hard work, senior leadership and experience is the reason we have been progressing throughout the year theway we have, and it shows on game nights,” the coach said.

The Herders are in fourth in conference but if they finish the schedule with wins at Lusk and Southeast, they should end up second. That would position them right where they  wanted to be when setting their goals early in the season.

Last Friday, they took on Burns at home and played what Huxtable thought was a complete game and great team win. Tucker Bopp led the scoring with 21 points, followed by Logan Downs with 11, and Kale Kuhlman with 9. The key to the game was their defense in the second half as they only allowed 6 points in the third quarter and 19 for the entire half. Kale Kuhlman was a big part of the defense by guarding their best player. He was assigned a tough job and rose to the challenge, holding him to just 11 points.

On Saturday, they faced a very difficult task when they traveled to Pine Bluffs. The Hornets are a seniorheavy team and very athletic.

“I felt we did some good things against their press and had one of our best shooting performances of the season because when we broke their press we attacked the rim to  score. However, they limited us to just 32 shot attempts for the game, and we turned the ball over too much to go into their place and try to upset the #1 team in the state.”

But the team has been saying all year long, “As long as we are learning, we are improving.” Even in a lopsided loss like that, the team learned the positives and from mistakes to make that final push to state in late February and early March, according to Huxtable.

This weekend, they play a good Wheatland team that is going to press and play at a fast pace. The Herd is looking to manage turnovers and stay aggressive on the offensive end. The team looks forward to what they can learn from 3A Bulldogs.

Their playoff picture is dependent on how they finish the regular season. If they can finish with wins against Lusk and Southeast, they would play the #3 team from the Northeast in Regionals in the first game. Looking at the Northeast and Southeast conferences, it looks like it will come down to that last game on Saturday before everyone knows who they might be playing at Regionals.

“Our goal is to be playing our bestball at that time of year, and I think we are trending in the right direction to make a strong push for a State tournament bid in March,” Huxtable said.


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