Mandan’s third-place finish in the WDA tournament ended with another early exit in the state tournament, their season ending along with the careers of a pair of double digit scorers.
“They have to get used to playing without those big guys,” says head coach Brandon Schafer. “Elijah Klein especially, all state player, Jaxon Weist was a three year starter. Those two guys were keys to our team and now filling in those rolls, I think they’re excited to get the opportunity.”
The Braves return without the size they’re used to. These players know that and are ready for a shift in the way Mandan will play this season.
“Traditionally, Mandan is like a post, run through the post,” says senior Jayce Lowman. “But this year might be more of a guard play. Driving lanes, shooting. We’ll see how it works out.”
“We just got to get people open and we can shoot the ball,” says senior Tyler Thilmony. “So everyone’s going to be able to score but defensively, we’re going to need to get into people and we’re going to need to shut them down a bit, and help our offense out in transition.”
That defensive speed is the key for Coach Schafer, putting in that extra effort that has seen success across the WDA.
“Take the charge, dive on the floor,” Schafer says. “We can’t jog to spots, we can’t slide, we got to sprint. That’s been a huge word for us, is sprint. And everyone’s hustling, we need to play five guys together defensively.”
“It’s mainly hustling,” says Lowman. “Like getting in the passing lanes, hustling. I mean, if you’re hustling, you’re going to play good defense even if you’re in the wrong spot.”
Mandan understands the standards with their program, but they are sick and tired of leaving the tournament empty handed each year.
“I know the last few years, we’ve been making it to state but we’ve been losing in the first round,” Thilmony says. “So obviously this year, we want to do more damage. So we aren’t settling on making state. We want to get to the state championship and win it.”
“In this conference, it’s full of great coaches and the teams are stacked,” says Schafer. “One through eleven. It’s going to be a tough, tough night every game.”
Mandan opens the season with the Bismarck Demons on December 15th.