DANSVILLE – The Dansville boys basketball team decided enough was enough after losing at Bath in last year’s regular-season finale.
It was the Aggies’ seventh straight defeat — also the ninth in 10 games — and it came just six days before they were scheduled to compete in the Class C district semifinals.
So the players kicked the coaches out of the locker room and held a players-only meeting, hoping to salvage what was left of their 7-13 season.
“We were talking about how no matter what we had done to close out the season, our season would be defined by what we do in the postseason,” Dansville senior forward Calvin Minnis said. “And that’s what we had to focus on, starting over from there and building off that for next year.”
Since the sit down, which several player said was full of “positivity,” the Aggies haven’t been the same. They went on to capture their first district championship since 2000 before losing by one point to Addison in the regional semifinals last year. And to begin this season, Dansville is off to a 5-0 start and already has four Central Michigan Athletic Conference victories.
The Aggies haven’t won more than five conference games since 2010.
“I think the big key for us is that we always talk about how this is the best (Class) C and D league in the state,” said sixth-year coach Cole Feldpausch, whose program hasn’t won a league title since 2000. “We knew if we could hang with anyone in that league that we could do damage in the postseason.
“Now we can win some of those close games we lost before, and we have the experience of playing in a good league.”
Senior Andrew Hodgson credited his team’s change in mentality for its latest run. The forward said Dansville is now approaching every game as if it is expected to win, which he feels wasn’t the case in previous seasons.
“A lot of time last year we would go into games, and while we wouldn’t say it, we would almost expect to lose,” he said. “That would leave us susceptible to an early run and we’d get down. It was almost more mental because we’ve been talented for a couple of years. This year we’ve really been focused on the mental side of stuff as well as the talent side.
“We don’t have any fear going into games anymore.”
Now the Aggies, who returned all but one player from last season, are in the early stages of learning to become the feared. In years past, Minnis said he felt team’s “expected to beat us” and added that Dansville came out this year trying to show that it does belong, despite what recent history says.
“We talk about just getting a taste of that district and regional atmosphere and wanting to get back,” said Feldpausch, whose squad will face Fulton, a team fresh off a Class D state semifinal appearance, at home Tuesday. “And then setting a goal for this year, we kind of talked about MSU (football) reaching higher and never settling.
“Now we’ve been there, so let’s challenge to win this league. Let’s not just hope to win district this year, let’s try to win this league and advance further in regionals.”
The addition of Andrew’s brother, 6-foot-8 Caleb Hodgson, has also helped the Aggies get off to a hot start. The freshman, who was a manager for the team last season, is averaging a team-high 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game and has already exceeded Feldpausch’s lofty expectations.
And having been around the program during its most recent metamorphosis, Caleb already had an understanding of what it would take to maintain Dansville’s newfound success.
“Everybody is back with a hunger to get more than last year,” he said. “We’re just trying to never settle and get better than last year.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.