Since tonight’s (Tuesday) opening-night opponent, Red Hill, has already hit the hardwood, Golden Aces basketball coach Tyler Buss has tried to put his team through as many real-time simulations as possible, to counteract the game-time shortage.
So, they have been scrimmaging more over the last two weeks.
“Red Hill has played four games already, so we wanted our kids to have a little of that game feel with a clock, referee and things like that,” said Buss, entering his second season at the helm. “We’ve tried to simulate that over the last couple of weeks, but they’re ready to play someone new.”
Mt. Carmel opens the season in Bridgeport against a Salukis team which played over the weekend in the Lawrence County Capital Classic. Red Hill (1-3), after hosting three games in pool play, finished with a 62-52 win at Lawrenceville in the tourney’s seventh-place game.
Unlike his rookie coaching season, Buss has had a full off-season and pre-season with his team. And, he’s learned a thing or two about this year’s unit.
“I think we have more depth than we even expected coming in,” Buss said. “We’ve had guys competing since day one, and it’s healthy for our team.”
The Aces appear more ready to embrace the up tempo style that Buss desires, because “No. 1, we’re pretty good at it, and we also have the depth that should allow us to do that,” he said.
Once adjusted to the new coach and system last year, the Aces took off in the second half of the season, compiling a 6-5 record. Is it too much to expect this year’s team to pick up where last year left off? Buss said no.
“We’ve set the bar there, and now we want to raise those expectations,” Buss said. “Early in the season, we want people to open the paper the next day and say ‘Oh wow, Mt. Carmel is coming.’”
Buss plans to start senior Joey Molstad and sophomore returnee Levi Laws at the guard spots. Reece Metcalf and Thomas Allen will man the forward spots, with 6-foot-5 junior C.J. Diel returning inside. “We’ll see how our rotations go after that. We feel like we’ll get eight or nine guys into a rotation, depending on how the game goes.
While Laws and Metcalf, the top two returning scorers from last year, will once again be counted on for much of the point production, the play of Diel, and the inside game in general, could hold the key for overall success. “I tell everyone he’s our wild card. If we can get consistent play out of that spot, he takes us from being a pretty good team to a really good team,” Buss said. “He’s finishing around the basket better. He’s always been pretty good at the defensive end in terms of blocking shots, but his footwork has improved a ton.”
Riley Raber, a 6-foot-3 junior transfer from Edwards County, will also bolster the inside attack.
Following the opener, the Aces will turn their attention to Big 8 Conference play, with the league and home opener against Jasper on Saturday night.
Tonight’s action begins with the junior varsity contest at 6:15 p.m., followed by the varsity tilt at approximately 7:45 p.m.