Pirates flourish despite unique and challenging season in 2020-21

Chris Bowie
Boonville Daily News

Unique and challenging are the two words Boonville Pirates basketball coach Mark Anderson used to describe the 2020-21 season.

With the threat of COVD-19 still lingering from the spring and fall, Anderson said Boonville, like a lot of schools, dealt with COVID concerns and quarantines, especially for the first month or so of the season.

As it turned out, the Pirates closed out the season at 16-8 overall and 5-2 in the Tri-County Conference but not without a two-week stoppage in play due to players being quarantined in December.

Anderson said despite all of that, the Pirates had a very solid year.

“It was very frustrating for the first month as we juggled lineups in the conference tournament and the Centralia Tournament, and it was certainly disappointing when we had to bow out of the Centralia Tournament early,” Anderson said. “Luckily, we didn’t have many disruptions and interruptions after Christmas break, and we were able to have a relatively normal season in January and February.”

Despite all those uncertainties surrounding the season, Boonville still managed to finish second in the conference tournament in December and first in the Southern Boone Classic in February.

Anderson said winning the SBC Classic was the biggest highlight of the season for the Pirates. Of course each time, Boonville knocked off SBC with a last second shot in the opening round of the TCC Tournament and then a convincing win over the Eagles in the semifinal round of the Southern Boone Classic.

Anderson said the Pirates were starting to play really well down the stretch, and winning the SBC Classic gave the team a lot of momentum.

“We played a very good schedule this year,” Anderson said. “Before the SBC Classic we had played at Blair oaks twice, at Mexico, at Warrensburg, and home against Hickman. While we lost all of those games, we generally played really well in those games but just couldn’t find a way to win them. In the Southern Boone Classic, we defeated a good Southern Boone team on their home court and then defeated a good Battle team in the championship game. Having said that, one of the biggest highlights of the season may have been having a season at all. At the beginning of the season, the question of whether we were going to play and/or finish our season was certainly up in the air. So making it through the season and seeing our players have the chance to play at all may have been the biggest highlight.”

Boonville also finished third in the Tri-County Conference, losing to both Blair Oaks and Southern Boone.

Although the Pirates finished 0-2 against Blair Oaks during the season, they were 2-1 against Southern Boone. However, the loss to the Eagles in the next-to-last conference game of the season placed Boonville behind those two teams in the TCC.

Anderson said the loss to SBC was probably the most disappointing regular season loss of the year and was a night that the Pirates just didn’t shoot the ball very well. “One of our goals for the season was to win the conference, so finishing third was a little disappointing,” Anderson said.

As for the conference as a whole, Anderson said the TCC was kind of similar this year to what it was last year, with three or four really good teams at the top of the conference. He said obviously Blair Oaks sat at the head of the table and was really good, and although Boonville lost to them two times felt the Pirates competed well against them and battled to-to-toe.

“Southern Boone was also very good, and we won two of three games against them this year,” Anderson said. “Hallsville was also very good, and our game against them may have been as well as we played all year (on senior night-or actually afternoon). The teams in the bottom half of the conference all seem to be improving and had some good teams as well. Versailles played a much different and very unique style, which presented problems for some teams when they faced them.”

The Pirates also had their struggles night in and night out against opponents. While shooting a staggering 54.1 percent on two-point field goals, Boonville was just 28.8 percent from the three-point line and 52.8 percent from the foul line. All in all, the Pirates finished the season shooting 45.2 percent from the field.

Nonetheless, Anderson said the biggest strength of the team this season was probably their comradery. He said this was team really fun to be around. 

“I know they really liked each other and had a good time together,” Anderson said. “They played well together, and we had a lot of different players who could step up for us and could lead us in scoring in any given game. We also had great size this year, which I think we started to utilize better as the season went along.

“I also thought we played together really well and we fought through the adversity of the quarantines. We played hard night in and night out, and I would think that we would have generally been a lot of fun to watch. It was a fun group to coach because of how hard they practiced and how well they got along.”

Along with winning the SBC Classic, Anderson said beating Battle for the championship in that tournament has to rank as one of the biggest wins of the season. He said Battle was a very athletic team and a Class 6 school, and defeating them was a big win for the program, especially after losing to them in the semifinals of the SBC Classic last season. “I think our players and many of our fans really enjoyed the win over Versailles, where we scored 116 points in a game that felt more like a track meet,” Anderson said. 

Of course the Pirates also had some tough losses throughout the season. Anderson said toughest loss is always the last one, especially when you think your team has the pieces to make a deep postseason run.

“When our district assignment came out in November and we saw Tolton and Fulton were in our district, we knew that it would be a tough path to get through the district,” Anderson said. “We played very well in the district semifinal at Fulton, who only had three losses all year, and we led into the fourth quarter but went cold at the wrong time. The loss was especially tough because it ended our season, and we didn’t have the chance to be around each other and practice together after that loss.” 

Although the Pirates return three starters next year, Anderson said the team also lost some really big pieces this year (literally in the case of three kids 6-4 or taller), but return three starters in D.J. Wesolak, Luke Green and Jackson Johns. 

“We’ll also return DaWan Lomax, who was a big part of our rotation this year,” Anderson said. “We’ll definitely be a different team in terms of our size, and we also need some players to step up and absorb Charlie’s (Bronakowski) points. But that’s unfortunately a part of high school basketball, and good programs have to find a way to move on and to adapt.”

Anderson added that Green and Johns should be two of the best guards in the conference next year, and Wesolak will give the Pirates some much-needed size. 

“We’re looking for some of our younger guys like Colby Caton, Caidyn Hazel, Dakota Troost, Garrett Hundley, and Tucker Lorenz to develop this off-season and to step up into bigger and more prominent roles next year,” Anderson said. “We’ll come into next season with the same goals and expectations that we always have (district championship and conference championship), but we’ll have to change our style somewhat. But as I mentioned, good teams and programs find a way to make adjustments year in and year out, and hopefully that’s what we’ll do next year.”

As far as statistical leaders on the team this year, senior Charlie Bronakowski led the Pirates in a number of categories while averaging 21.4 ppg and 2.0 spg. Bronakowski also finished the season shooting 72.7 percent from the foul line.  Senior Lane West, meanwhile, led the team in rebounding while averaging 7.9 rpg and assist at 3.0 apg. Junior D.J. Wesolak was the teams leading field goal shooter at 55.2 percent, while sophomore Jackson Johns was the leading three-point shooter at 34.4 percent.