After finishing the 2018-19 regular season 25-1, the Osakis boys basketball team was bounced by Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in the second round of the Section 6AA playoffs.
“Coach (Matt) Hoelscher sat us down after that game and told us to remember what this feels like,” senior guard and leading scorer Dan Savageau said. “It didn’t feel good. We thought we could’ve gone further. DGF was a good team, but that one stung.”
The Silverstreaks fell to the Rebels 59-55 last winter to end one of the best seasons in program history. However, the early exit left something to be desired.
“Our mentality coming into this year is, ‘Unfinished business,’” Hoelscher said. “A lot of people expected us to go further than the second round last year. We do have higher expectations for this year. We have to bring it every night because every team is going to be gunning for us. We can’t take anyone lightly.”
Last year, Melrose was the only team that beat Osakis in the regular season. This year, they get a chance to get one back on Dec. 19 on the road.
“I think that loss caused us to stumble a bit,” Savageau said. “We are excited to play them and some other great teams this year. In the offseason we played against some AAAA schools like Moorhead. Seeing better competition is going to get us ready for the postseason.”
Hoelscher is excited about seeing some fresh faces on the schedule. After playing in Section 8AA in recent years, the Silverstreaks were moved back into the 6AA field when section assignments were announced by the Minnesota State High School League.
Along with some great 6AA competition that will come at tournament time, Osakis will get to play teams like Albany and Rocori over winter break at St. John’s University.
Osakis has six seniors returning to the lineup for this season. Two of last year’s leading scorers, Luke Imdieke and Savageau, are back at guard positions. Reliable players from last year graduated, so there are spots open for new players to emerge, as well.
“Brandon Boogaard and Johnathan Lara were our vocal leaders last year,” Savageau said. “We know that we have to be those kinds of guys this year for this team. I think this group is pretty determined and works hard. We are all accountable for each other.”
After one week of practice, Hoelscher already sees the experience in his team.
“We are looking pretty good,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that have been through this before and know what we do here. It’s really easy to get into drills with a lot less explaining. We feel like we are already ahead of the game with these guys so far.”
The biggest strength of this team is going to be its speed and its ability to score. Hoelscher has trust in the guys he’s going to put on the court.
“I’m really confident in our starting five,” he said. “I think we’ll have great guard play. I think the seniors on this team provide a lot of leadership around the court. We wish our bench could be a little bit deeper, but that means other guys are going to get opportunities. The mentality of this team is special. They want to compete and work hard, and that’s going to push them this year.”
For as good as the perimeter game could be this year, navigating the paint is going to be Osakis’ toughest challenge.
“Our Achilles heel is going to be post defense and rebounding,” Hoelscher said. “We can score, but what’s going to happen when we run against teams with bigs? Are we going to be able to box out at key moments? That’ll be the biggest thing we need to work on this year.”
The Osakis football team is coming off one of its best years in school history, as well. After the loss to Barnesville in the state quarterfinal, dual-sport athletes had just one week to turn around for basketball practice. For Savageau, a new season couldn’t come soon enough.
“We had a week off, but I couldn’t sit still and do nothing,” Savageau said. “We had a great football season. It’s hard to go from sport-to-sport so fast, but we are excited about this season. We have our expectations, but we are taking it one practice and one game at a time.”