Mustangs hit the court for start of basketball season
The West Grand Mustangs Boys Basketball Team kicks off their season this week at the Front Range Baptist Invitational, an eight-team regular season tournament in Fort Collins. While the team is coming in relatively cold, practicing for less than a week, they’ll look to start the season off strong in hopes of trumping their 10-11 record from last year and returning to the regional tournament.
The good news for 29-year Head Coach Leo Pesch is that the team only lost four seniors in the offseason, and virtually no key players. The biggest losses for the Mustangs were Robert Amaro and Shawn Mahorney, two bench players who averaged a combined 8.7 points per game. Mahorney finished fifth on the team with 87-points and 44-rebounds while playing in all 21 games.
“I was very pleased with the performance of our young kids,” said Lesch referring to last season. “I had four seniors on the team, but not many of them played much. So the returners I have this year have a lot of experience. So we’re looking forward to a pretty good season.”
Last year the Mustangs won a play-in game for the 2017 District-5 Tournament against Caprock Academy, before falling to the second seeded Meeker Cowboys. But the Mustangs have a chance to improve this year as they return their core four from last season: Juniors Austin Stauffer and Luis Dominguez, and Seniors Jake Bentler and Brady Gore.
Stauffer was a beast for the Mustangs last season, pacing the team with 294-points, 138-rebounds and 36-blocks on his way to five of the teams six double-doubles. Dominguez (214), Bentler (173) and Gore (147) all finished top four in scoring, while Bentler (53) and Gore (65) both finished top three in rebounds. All four led the team in assists, with Bentler and Dominguez leading the pack with 49 and 40 respectively.
With the team’s best players coming off of a devastating loss in the State Football Championship Game, and a very truncated practice time, Pesch emphasized that seeing improvement from game to game was more important than early season wins.
“I’ve just got a lot of work to do,” said Pesch. “A lot of mental and physical preparation. I’m looking at this tournament this week in my own mind as scrimmage time to go down there and try to get better when we start league. We’ll play these games to try to win, but we really just use these games before Christmas to prepare for our league games after Christmas.”
Pesch said that the team will focus on speed and conditioning while on the court, setting the pace running up and down the court and pressing opponents on defense. But for Pesch, the more important aspect of the game is being able to use sports as a tool to teach young men about life.
“Off the court my whole goal is to get these young boys to become men. To use basketball as a tool to help them understand the ups and downs of life, winning and losing in life, and always doing your best. Also just getting them to perform with other people. In society we have to work with people every day.”
The Mustangs will compete in the 2017-18 Front Range Baptist Invitational on Thursday, Friday and Saturday before returning to Grand County to take on the Middle Park Panthers on Dec. 12 in Granby.
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