MHS boys to build on last season

These seniors and returning letter-winners will bring experience and leadership to the court this season for the Marion boys’ basketball team: (from left) Eli Hett, Sam Zinn, Chase Stringer, Zachary Stuchlik, Noah Dalrymple, Colin Williams, Evann Heidebrecht. Not pictured: Blaine Mermis.
These seniors and returning letter-winners will bring experience and leadership to the court this season for the Marion boys’ basketball team: (from left) Eli Hett, Sam Zinn, Chase Stringer, Zachary Stuchlik, Noah Dalrymple, Colin Williams, Evann Heidebrecht. Not pictured: Blaine Mermis.
If last year was a season of growing pains for the Marion boys’ basketball team, second-year coach Randy Skiles looks ahead with optimism for a continuation of growth that became evident as the season ended.

“If I take a positive from last year, I’ve got a lot of younger kids that got some quality playing time on varsity,” Skiles said. “We took our lumps last year, but I think they’re ready to compete this year, and I think it’s going to be a totally different team. These guys are excited, they’re wanting to play (and) they’re wanting to win.”

The Warriors went 5-16 last season, including 1-7 in Heart of America league play, ending the season with a string of 10 defeats.

In the Warriors’ final game of the season, they showed evidence of improvement, when, faced with a rematch against Council Grove in the Class 3A sub-state quarterfinals, the Warriors lost only by seven, 50-43, after suffering an earlier defeat by a 64-38 margin.

Marion will play without three graduated seniors: Nathan Baldwin, Peyton Heidebrecht and Mason Pedersen, and will make a return to Class 2A when taking to the court this year.

“Graduation hit us pretty hard, but I feel that this year will be one of the most athletic teams I have ever had,” Skiles said. “We will be inexperienced at spots, but we will continue to improve. We will be a tough matchup for anyone.”

Two returning starters highlight Marion’s 25-man roster.

Senior Zachary Stuchlik is a 6-foot, 3-inch guard/forward who received All-HOA honorable mention a year ago with per-game averages of 11 points and six rebounds.

“(Zachary) brings a lot,” Skiles said. “He’s been working on posting up, and he is a scoring threat on the outside, so he’s a dual threat there. If we get mismatches on him, we can just post him up.”

Junior Noah Dalrymple (6-4) also returns with starting experience. The forward/center averaged four points and five rebounds per game in his first year with the team.

“(Noah’s) just a natural athlete,” Skiles said. “He’s going to be good. These guys are still juniors, most of them, so they’ve got another year to grow.”

Six additional letter-winners return to make contributions on the court.

Junior Evann Heide­brecht (5-10) will be called upon to handle the ball at point guard.

“(Evann’s) got potential to be the best point guard in the league,” Skiles said. “He’s quick, he’s explosive off the dribble, he’s a good passer. He got quality minutes last year. His brother, (Peyton), was a senior and he started over Evann, but Evann came in to relieve him several times.”

These athletes will contribute inside as well: junior forward Chase Stringer (6-3), junior forward/center Blaine Mermis (6-5) and senior forward Colin Williams (5-10).

Skiles said he expects improved post play this year.

“Last year, they were a little bit timid,” Skiles said. “But they’ve been in the weight room—they’ve gotten stronger—so their post play’s going to be a lot better. I can tell already.”

Junior guards Sam Zinn (5-11) and Eli Hett (5-10) round out the returning letter-winners.

“Last year, I was so guard-heavy, it was just hard to get (Sam and Eli) a lot of playing time,” Skiles said. “But this year, it’s going to be opposite. I’m going to count on them.”

Outlook

Heading into his second year at Marion, Skiles said he not only has learned more about the athletes he’s coaching, but he also was able to begin preparing for the season in the summer, a luxury he did not have last season.

“Last year, I came in and it was late and everything happened in a hurry,” he said. “There were just some things I didn’t have time to prepare for that I would’ve liked to, like working in the summer and on offenses and defenses. I think that’s going to help us this year because we had a chance to go to a team camp in Omaha, and we had a lot of good times there, and then we did some things in the summertime, too. They know what to expect out of me, and I know them a lot better, too.”

Skiles said the team will seek continued growth and improvement each week.

“We just need to go out and play and see where we’re at,” he said. “We’ll be fine.

“I’m just excited to coach them this year because they’re going to go out and compete. No matter what happens, they’re just going to compete and do the best that they can.”

Marion will host South­east of Saline in its season-opener Friday.