By Rich Winter
A year ago, the Bennett County boys played the final game of the season on their home floor. While that alone might not get Warrior fans’ blood pumping, that season-ending loss, 92-69 was the first time in coach Jason Buckles’ tenure that the Warriors hosted a first-round region game.
Really a break-through year for a Bennett County program lumped in one of the toughest Class A regions in the state.
“It was a big deal for us,” Buckles said. “Hosting a region game was big for our program.”
The 2017/2018 campaign saw the Warriors win eight games and four-of-six down the stretch to claim Region 7A home court.
On Friday, the Warriors open their season at home versus an experienced Stanley County squad. On Saturday, the boys travel to Mission to take on Todd County.
If you haven’t seen DeAndre Cottier in a while, brace yourselves – the young man gave himself an extreme makeover.
“DeAndre has dropped about 65 pounds and he’s at 225 right now,” Buckles said. “He’s much more explosive and we’re expecting a big year from him.”
A near double-double guy a year ago with deep range, Buckles is looking for that game to expand as well as Cottier’s leadership responsibilities.
“All summer he was eating right and getting in the weight room,” Buckles said. “He’s not a very vocal kid but he’s learning to accept that because that’s what we expect of him.”
A pair of additional starters return with Jacoby Heathershaw and Riley Mesteth ready to make some significant contributions.
“Jacoby Heathershaw has grown a lot and is 6-foot-3 or better,” Buckles said. “Jacoby is one of three or four kids that can really shoot it.”
Buckles said Cottier’s brother, sophomore Charles Cottier is a good ball handler and someone they are expecting more from this season.
At times last year, particularly down the stretch, Riley Mesteth showed flashes of being one of the best guards in a rugged Region 7.
“Riley is just so athletic and he’s our primary ball handler so we’re expecting a lot out of him with leadership,” Buckles said.
One of the big goals through the first part of the year will be developing the bench, the No. 6 - No. 8 players as Buckles says.
“We’re got a really good starting five but after that we’re a little thin,” Buckles said. “We have guys like Tristan Richards and Sage Flye that are going to be competing for time.”
Expect the Warriors to pick up some steam when the second semester rolls around.
“The kids are ready to go but we still have a few missing physicals and we’ll get a few kids back academically after the first of the year.”