Valley Christian may not a lot of numbers. The Warriors definitely don’t have many seniors. And they may be one of the smallest teams playing in the Trailways North Conference.
But, there is enough talent and some new-found toughness that makes them capable of collecting a victory just about every time the Warriors step on the court.
“It’s a new season so it’s always exciting to get back into basketball,” head coach Greg Jonas said. “We lost a lot of key players from last year it was a big senior class that we lost. It’s a much smaller squad overall, but I think we’ll hopefully be competitive.”
The Warriors are coming off an 8-16 season, but four of those losses were by five points or less. In fact, Valley Christian had a third of its games last season decided by five points or less.
That plays into the Warriors competing each time they take the court. And the ultimate goal is to play a part in the Trailways North Conference race — even if the Warriors aren’t the ones necessarily challenging for the title.
“I think what we’re trying to do is be competitive in the conference and take away wins where we can take them away,” Jonas said. “Obviously there are some larger schools in our conference where I just want to be competitive and make then earn the victory. That’s kind of our focus right now.”
As the lone senior on the squad, Tyler Van Maanen easily has the most experience among his teammates.
He also has quite a bit of talent to go with it and the Warriors will be looking to him to carry a good share of the offensive load.
Tyler’s a very versatile player,” Jonas said. “We’re going to try to use him inside and out throughout the season depending on who we match up.”
Van Maanen averaged a solid 12 points per game last year for the Warriors and was maybe their most consistent player having scored in double figures in 20 of the 24 games.
He scored 22 points in Valley Christian’s victory over Oakfield earlier this week.
“He is certainly gotten much more court sense and has the raw athletic ability to achieve some really big things,” Jonas said. “He’s just an outstanding athlete and is fun to coach.”
Jonas definitely counts himself as a fan of the Valley Christian football team.
Not just to see the 8-man football squad do well for the school, but also because it benefits his program in the long run.
I think for a number of players that played football, it brought a whole another level of toughness to the game,” Jonas said. “The football program has definitely helped our basketball program.”
Ryan Van Maanen, Joe Schettle and Alex Ovadal were all part of the Warrior football team this fall and Jonas said he can see a marked difference on the basketball court.
“The guys who have played football, playing multiple sports really adds a lot to you in many different ways,” Jonas said. “It helps bring out more of the athleticism that you have and may not always use in one sport.”
Defense doesn’t rest
With a smaller squad in size and numbers and having graduated some of the team’s top scorers from last year, Jonas said the first key to his team’s success this year is on defense.
“No. 1, we have to play very solid defense,” he said. “I think we can be (a good defensive team).”
Last year, the Warriors were 8-1 when they held a team to 47 points or less. When the opponent’s point total climbed above that mark, the Warriors never picked up a win.
Jonas said that’s why the focus of the early-season practice schedule has been on the defensive end.
“In the first couple weeks of the season it is something that we really stressed and I think its something that we’re going to progress through and it will be a priority for us,” Jonas said. “You’re really never good enough on defense, you just hope you’re taking steps forward and not backward during the season.”