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Veteran players to lead BEA boys

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Jan 17, 2021

The Blue Earth Area boys basketball team is looking forward to taking the court and playing some games. Kneeling in the front row, left to right: Waylen Douglas, Gabe Torres, Gavin Storbeck, Austin Thielfoldt, Braden Gudahl, Will Howard. Back row: Blake Ripley, Nik Lopez, Anthony Carr, Ashton Lloyd, Sam Keister, Luke Norman, Cam Anderson, and Logan O’Hara.

As Colby Swanson looks at his 2021 boys basketball team, one of the differences he sees from last year is the physicality of the guys.

“In the past we have struggled somewhat with more physical teams, but the guys have worked and gotten so much stronger in the off season,” Swanson says. “Getting in the weight room and getting stronger is going to give us a toughness we have been missing in the past.”

It is not just his veteran players the coach gets excited about.

“One thing which is really going to benefit us is we had a strong B-squad last year. They might have had one of the best records for BEA ever with only two or three losses,” Swanson notes. “This helps provide us with depth and it also means practices are more competitive. That helps everyone improve and get better.

“We have a talented group of juniors who are physical and play the game the right way. They really push our seniors.”

The BEA mentor is also excited about the way his team shoots the ball.

“We have a number of players who can knock down shots from behind the three-point line,” he comments. “The ability to shoot the ball from long range makes us a tough team to guard, especially when you combine our shooting with our athleticism and team speed.”

He is also thankful for the leadership skills of his senior players.

“Coach Kuechenmeister talked about leadership during the football season and what a benefit it was to have leaders when you are faced with a shorter-than-normal time frame to get the team ready to go,” Swanson says. “One of the most enjoyable parts of practice for me is to see our veteran senior players, who are very competitive, helping out with the younger guys and teaching them while they are out there playing.”

Last year’s squad was the first BEA boys team to finish with a winning record in 10 years.

“That was one of our goals last year, along with making it to the Sub-Section finals, and we accomplished both of them,” Swanson notes.

Swanson wishes more fans would be able to see the team play in-person.

“COVID-19 will restrict the number of people at the game. It will be different,” he comments. “This is such a fun bunch of kids to watch and everyone in the community, including our elementary and middle school basketball players, has a great group to look up to. It is kind of sad they may not get the opportunity to watch them in person. At least they can watch the games online.”

But having fewer fans is not the biggest change caused by the coronavirus.

“Practicing in pods and having to wear masks has been a huge change,” Swanson says. “But I have to say our players have done a great job adapting to playing with masks and they have not complained about them in practice. They know what they have to do in order to play the game they love, so they do it.”

The Bucs have two Big South Conference All-Conference players returning from last year’s squad.

“Cameron Anderson and Austin Thielfoldt both received post-season honors last year,” Swanson comments. “It is nice to have them back for another year.”

When he talks about the top teams in the BSC and the Section, the conversation starts with Waseca.

“They may be the best team in the state,” Swanson states. “But we are trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. Our goal is to get better every practice and every game. If we do that, we will be alright.”

BEA was scheduled to begin their season on Thursday, Jan. 14, with a home game against Tri-City United. Then, they were to play host to St. Peter on Saturday, Jan. 16.