GROTON – They have all of their pieces back in place, they are finally healthy and now the Groton Tigers are motivated to build upon their stellar start to the season.
While the squad is currently 8-0, this year’s journey to success actually got underway last summer, according to Groton coach Brian Dolan.
Kaden Kurtz was coming off a football injury that caused him to miss all of last season. Lane Tietz was rehabbing a shoulder injury suffered in the final basketball game last season. That forced others to step up and play major roles when the Tigers participated in summer camps.
“We went through the summer without Kaden or Lane,” Dolan said, “and a lot of those younger guys got an opportunity to play roles that they hadn’t played.”
As a result, when Kurtz and Tietz were added back to the mix, they joined a crew ready to hit the ground running.
While Groton has won all eight of its games to start the year, Dolan said it took a few weeks to get up to speed.
“I didn’t like the way we were playing for the month of December,” Dolan said.
Then Christmas break hit and the Tigers worked to shore up some areas of concern. The practices have made a major difference on both ends of the floor.
“We’ve been a lot more consistent defensively since Christmas break,” Dolan said. “That’s probably why we’re at where we’re at.”
The squad features a variety of weapons on offense with the likes of Jayden Zak, Jacob Zak, Wyatt Hearnen, Cole Simon, Tate Larson and Teylor Diegel joining Kurtz and Tietz. The Tigers have had eight different players in double figures so far this season and a ninth that just missed that total.
That balance opens options for the Groton offense and keeps opposing defenses off balance.
“If we just share the ball, which we’ve been doing a better job of since Christmas break as well, if we just share the ball there’s no reason to run sets and give teams an opportunity to be able to know who were running that set to, that person,” Dolan said. “But if we just run our offense, they have to stop all five of us.”
The Tigers do not have much size (their have just two players taller than 6-foot-1), but they make up for it with quickness and athleticism.
Dolan, a former college coach, said in his past experiences, shorter but quicker is tougher to defend.
“I always tell our kids, especially when I was coaching in college, what’s a mismatch on one end is most likely a mismatch on the other end,” Dolan said. “If teams want to pound it inside on us, it’s most likely because they’re a lot bigger than us, which probably means we’re a little bit more quicker, a little bit more athletic, a little bit faster and we need to take advantage of that down on our end. It takes a lot more work to throw the ball in the post than it does to spread the floor out and attack.”
Groton is coming off what Dolan called the team’s best game since he’s been there, a win over Deubrook Area last weekend at the Pheasant Shootout in Redfield.
“They were quite a bit bigger than us and just as athletic,” Dolan said. “That was a big test for us. We just played extremely well.”
While the Tigers have made their mark against opponents, they have yet to gain much traction with the media. Groton garnered just one vote total in the latest poll.
That lack of attention is not a concern for Dolan or his players.
“We talk about seed points. We don’t talk about what other people’s opinions of us is,” Dolan said. “There’s nothing we can do to control that.”
The goal is to make a strong run in the post season, but Dolan is not ready to sacrifice the future for the present. There is still much work to be done.
Dolan’s lists of improvements includes three-point shooting, free-throw shooting, transition offense and defense, but he believes the Tigers are heading in the right direction and that their best days are ahead.
That could spell big trouble for the rest of the Class A field as the Tigers are putting in the effort to get better every time they step onto the court.
“The kids do all the work. They work hard. They let us push them in practice. They don’t complain,” Dolan said. “They really get after it. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and play the next team on our schedule, and see what comes of it.”
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