PEABODY BURNS HS- PBHS boys aim to build on success of a tough year

Coach Roger O’Neal hopes his fifth season of coaching at Peabody-Burns will be uneventful compared to last season.

Tragedy struck last year when head coach Leon Harris died, leaving assistant O’Neal to finish the season as head coach.

“We’ll still have a lot of emotion this season with Coach Harris,” O’Neal said. “I know when we go to the Burrton Tournament, which was Coach Harris’s last game, the kids will still be dealing with things. But we will deal with it because we know we have a lot of support.”

Even in the face of adversity, PBHS accumulated a 17-6 record last season, including a 7-3 mark in the Heart of America League.

A loss in the sub-state championship game to Berean left the Warriors a game short of advancing to the state tournament, but it buoyed hopes for the upcoming season.

O’Neal is looking for six seniors, in addition to several other experienced players, to take the Warriors into the upper reaches of the HOA this season.

Four of those seniors, though, return with limited varsity experience: Micah Hilliard (6-foot, 1-inch), Cody Weerts (5-9), Bryan Johnson (6-0) and Robert Rossberg (6-5).

Hilliard and Weerts played junior varsity last season. Johnson did not play a year ago and Rossberg is an exchange student from Germany.

Two players who do know the ropes are Jason Carroll (5-10) and Derek Benson (6-2).

O’Neal said Harris laid the foundation on offense last year, and O’Neal said he plans to build on that beginning.

“We’re not doing a lot different, but our offense is an offense you can add to each year,” he said. “It’s a continuation of what was started last year, so we’re not retooling or starting over.”

Other players who O’Neal needs contributions from include junior Todd Woodruff (5-8), who O’Neal says “will really help us,” and sophomore Nathan Bishop (6-0), who is “a fantastic athlete.”

Two other returners who shared starting duties last season are junior Derrick Simmonds (6-1) and sophomore Duane Unruh (5-8).

“Simmonds is an effective outside shooter,” O’Neal said. “And Unruh will apply a lot of defensive pressure.”

O’Neal hopes his top returning scorer from last season, Isaac Good, will be available after Christmas.

“Our team strength will be our defensive pressure,” O’Neal said. “We’ll use our full-court press selectively, but we really want to trap out of our half-court set. We have to have good ball pressure this season.”

O’Neal said the Warriors are going to run on offense.

“We want to get up and down the court,” he said. “Every opportunity we have to fast break, we’ll take it.

“But if the break isn’t there, I hope we’re much stronger from the outside and have good perimeter shooting in our half-court offense.”

If that offense performs and the defense stiffens, O’Neal thinks this season could be memorable for him and his players.

Only this time for all positive reasons.

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