The Estherville Lincoln Central boys again don't have an easy first-round tournament game in ninth-ranked MOC-Floyd Valley
The Midgets moved up to Class 3A this season as the school's BEDS number, which is used to determine class, has been on the border for the past several years and ELC fell on the 3A side this season.
After winning eight games a year ago and the entire varsity roster returning, ELC entered this season with higher expectations. Despite hard work, ELC finished the year with a 7-14 mark.
"We obviously didn't achieve the goals we wanted," said ELC coach York Plagge. "But the Lakes Conference is still a tough conference. We also had a couple games that could've gone the other way-the loss to Pocahontas and the overtime loss at home.
In the recent history of ELC basketball, 15 wins in two seasons is a respectable accomplishment. Throughout the past decade, the Midgets have endured a coaching revolving door until Plagge's arrival.
Plagge said the current group of seniors have bought into what's he's trying to do.
"They've put a lot of time into it," he said.
Matt Burrell leads the Midgets with 10.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Tyler Swanson and Adam Reiter are both averaging 8.1 points per game while Evan Hansen is at 7.4 points per contest.
Others seeing significant court time this season are Joe Heinrichs, Derek Nieland, Tucker Milburn, Brad Olsen, Carsten Bosch and Jeff Perkins.
As a team, ELC is shooting 40.2 percent (384-of-956) from the field including 34.2 percent (138-of-404) from three-point range. The Midgets are shooting 53.9 percent from the free throw line and average 51.3 points per game.
MOC-Floyd Valley enters the game average 65 points per game. The Dutch shoot 52.8 percent from the field, 33.1 percent (85-of-257) from 3-point range and 68.4 percent from the free throw line.
Justin Van Kalsbeek leads the team with 17.1 points per game as he shoots 74 percent (148-of-200) from the field. MOC-Floyd Valley also has Trey Achterhoff (9.9 points per game, Levi Jansen (11.1 ppg), David DeHaan (8.3 ppg) and Mitchell De Wit (8.2 ppg).
ELC and MOC-Floyd Valley had just one common opponent during the regular season-Western Christian.
The Midgets lost to the Wolfpack twice this season, 85-55 and 80-57. While the Dutch lost 64-54 to Western Christian.
"They're very aggressive defensively," said Plagge of the Dutch. "They'll double team you and trap and deny the ball and they'll do it full court. They also rebound well."
With nearly two weeks off since their last game, ELC has been working hard. Plagge says they work to simulate the pressure they'll face as well as working on rebounding and getting back in transition.
With a good shooting team like MOC-Floyd Valley, defensive rebounding will be key.
"When we've had games where we've stayed in them, it's because of defensive rebounding," said Plagge.
The coach's biggest concern is the two-week layoff.
"It's not easy to simulate the intensity of a game in practice," he said.
However this group of seniors doesn't give up easily, so look for them to give the Dutch their best effort.