The 2016-17 season was up and down for the Pilot Grove Tigers basketball team.
While finishing 6-19 overall and 1-12 in the Central Activities Conference, Pilot Grove also lost its top scorer from last year’s team heading into the 2017-18 season under head coach Derek Skaggs.
With two starters and three letterwinners back from last year’s team, Skaggs said the Tigers will have several new players and a new style of play they are molding.
“I want to be competitive in every game we play and our goals are to be a contender in conference and play for a district championship,” Skaggs said. “We have guys that like to play fast and are aggressive so we hope to fit that into our style of play.”
Of course the Tigers will have their hands full again in the CAC this season. Regarded as one of the best Class 1-2 conference in the state, Skaggs said the CAC will be a conference that challenges teams every night out and that is a reason for Pilot Grove joining.
“We are looking to improve off of our one conference win from last year and hope to start an upward swing from where we finished,” Skaggs said. “We want to be ready come district play and if we are successful in conference play it give us the reassurance that we are ready to compete against the best when districts start in late February.”
If the Tigers are going to get back to their glory days, Skaggs said it will start with great ball control, which is something the team has worked hard on in the off season.
“I think we are coming together as a team and will expect to be a team you can’t sleep on,” Skaggs said. “However, we will be undersized so we will need to have a higher field goal percentage to play the style we would like to. We are not going to be a huge threat on the glass.”
Players that Coach Skaggs will look to this season for the Tigers are seniors Cole Mize and Anderson Twenter, junior Gavin Shepherd and Lucas Fahrendorf, sophomore Cole Meisenheimer and freshman Bailey Quint.
Mize returns after averaging 8.7 ppg and 5.5 rpg last year for the Tigers. Skaggs said Mize is a talented and athletic kid.
“He has worked hard to clean up his defensive ability,” Skaggs said. “He is a guy that we will expect to own the boards for us on the defensive end this year and is very capable of a 10 point average and 10 rebound per game every night out this year.”
Twenter also expects to give the Tigers some much needed scoring and rebounding this season. While coming off the bench last year, Skaggs said Twenter’s role has picked up some workload.
“He is one of our main defensive pieces and we expect him to knock down threes on the perimeter and finish in transition,” Skaggs said.
Fahrendorf also came off the bench last year for the Tigers. Although undersize, Skaggs said Fahrendorf works incredibly hard to make up for it.
“Lucas has gained confidence ever year since he came here as a freshman and he will mix into the starting lineup depending on our opponent and strategy every night out,” Skaggs said. “He is a workhorse on the glass so we look for him to give us 5-10 rebounds per game along with that many points.”
Shepherd will also be asked to pick up some of the scoring slack this season. While coming off the bench last year, Skaggs said Shepherd is another kid that is very high energy and will give the Tigers great strength on the defensive side of the floor.
“He is lightning quick and finishes very well at the rim,” Skaggs said. “He has worked on his perimeter game over the summers and we look for him to be our “Mad Man” as we call it.”
Meisenheimer will also bring experience to the floor this season for Pilot Grove.
 While averageing 8.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg and 3.0 apg last year, Skaggs said Meisenheimer is a kid who can play multiple positions and has a high basketball IQ. “We look for him to score and create passes for us,” Skaggs said. “He averaged three assists per game last year and he will have much more help with ball control this year.”
Last but not least is Quint. Skaggs said Quint is going to come in and be the starting point guard right out of the gates as a freshman.
“He is going to have a freshman learning curve, but possesses a lot of ability and gives us added ball security with an ability to score,” Skaggs said.
Other players of interest this season for the Tigers are Donnavan Gerke, Ethan Williams, Dorsan Hern, Kealin Vinson, Laben Twenter, Dylan Schupp, Luke Kollmeyer, Hayden Krumm, Dalton Reuter, Derek Powell and Phillip Brown.
Skaggs said all are guys that are working hard every day to earn their spot in the lineup. “It will always come down to that guy that works tirelessly and is hungry for that bone at the end of the day,” Skaggs said.