Prairie Home basketball coach Mark Laughlin had one word to describe the 2018-19 team: special.
With three starters back from last year’s team along with 32 points of offense, McLaughlin said the Panthers won’t be huge by any means but they will be fast, really tough to match up with and clever on defense.
“There’s nothing I can throw at these guys that they can’t bring to life on the court,” McLaughlin said. “I think we will have a lot of versatility and resourcefulness on both sides of the ball. However, we have to also be a better, more fundamental defensive team. We’ll be multiple defensively, flex and contract pressures, but they have to learn the knack of that style.”‘
After finishing 15-12 overall last year, the Panthers also lost one of the most prolific scores in Prairie Home history in Creed Flood, who finished the season averaging 26.9 ppg.
But at the same time, the Panthers return two all-conference players in juniors Clayton Pethan and Kassen Lock. Also seeing a significant amount of playing time last year were senior Blake Petsel and sophomores Ty Stidham, Luke Stewart, Blaine Petsel and John Fontana.
Pethan, a do it all type player for the Panthers, returns after averaging 8.8 ppg along with 7.4 rpg, 3.6 apg and 1.4 spg. McLaughlin said Pethan will play the forward position at 6’-2” and is a finesse and fine point master. “He has a Lonzo Ball jumper that more than often goes in,” McLaughlin said of Pethan. “He also has great hands, great quickness and super off the dribble to the rim.”
As for Lock, he will be a player that forces teams to play honest on defense just because of his outside shooting. While averaging 9.7 ppg along with 3.0 rpg, 2.6 spg and 2.4 apg, McLaughlin said is a super athletic player and explosive drive to the basket. “Kassie is a great defender with exceptionally quick hands,” McLaughlin said. “He is also a deep shooter.”
Blake Petsel, a 5’-7” senior, will also pose a threat from the outside. While playing the point guard position this season for Prairie Home, McLaughlin said Petsel is lightning fast and a “Nash type point guard”.
“Blake is very heady, very situationally aware and a pure creator of the ball,” McLaughlin said.
As for Stidham, who will play the power forward position at 5’-10”, McLaughlin said he is a terrific deep shooter with very good handles. “Ty will be a real matchup nightmare for people,” McLaughlin said. “He will be the X-factor for us. “As for Luke Stewart, he worked really hard in the offseason but is a fast kid and athletic. He will out-run everyone down the floor. Blaine Petsel is a fluid player. He is also a great shooter and driver with great “lead guard”.” Fontana, meanwhile, is deceptively quick, strong with great hands, clever and crafty around the basket. He is also mentally tough, disciplined in coming back from a debilitating baseball injury. John is also another X-factor guy.”
As for the conference this season, McLaughlin said Jamestown lost a lot but still sees a dogfight between the Eagles, Prairie Home, Calvary Lutheran and Higbee for the title. “There are too many good coaches and well-schooled players not to,” McLaughlin said. “Our goals this season are to have unlimited aspirations and be equaled by high level of enthusiasm and willingness to work. We’re focused on the process, and the outcome will take care of itself.”