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Jaguar Basketball Seeks Return to State

The winter sports season is underway and it is time to start rolling out our 2018-2019 Winter Sports Previews. We will start with a team that is coming off a very successful season, the Hinckley-Finlayson Jaguar Basketball team.

The Jaguars finished last season with a 28-5 record on the year and a share of the conference championship. They won their section with ease before running into the best team in the State, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the first round. The Jaguars would move on to win the consolation championship.

Hinckley-Finlayson will look to some new players to step up this year if they are looking for a third-straight conference title and a second-straight section title.

Preview with head coach Dan Kreft:

What are you most excited for this year? Every year I’m excited to see how my team will progress and grow throughout the season. I’m particularly excited because many of the players got a taste of the state tournament last year, and I think they will be hungry to work on trying to get back there this year.

How is the roster shaping up? Do you have a lot of new players? Are you returning a lot of players? Younger? Older? Etc. We graduated a lot of our top players from last year’s team. However, we do have 10 players returning that dressed varsity last season, and those guys worked hard last year going against our starters every day in practice, and they worked very hard this summer to improve too. So, I think they will be ready to step up this year.

Who are a couple athletes that will stand out? Anders Prater is returning for us. He is a senior this year, has been on varsity since 9th grade, and has been our starting PG for the last two years. Cedric Lafave is returning. In the latter half of last season he started to see varsity action, and played very well. I think he will be a key player at the guard position for us. Lavone Kroschel was our 6th man for much of last season. He’s a big, strong kid who should help us in the paint.

Any upcoming milestones for your team? Maybe...Anders has a chance of reaching 1,000 points.

What are your goals? First of all, I want my team to get better each and every day ­ that’s always our goal. I ask the players at the end of nearly every practice: What did we do to get better today? Secondly, I’d like to contend again for the Great River Conference title. We were conference champs for the last 2 years, and we’d like to make it 3! Thirdly, I’d like to see us contend for the section title again. Like I said early, the players are hungry to get back there. Hopefully we can build the stepping stones throughout the season to help us get there.

Favorite upcoming games, matches, or meets?

As far as conference games, Pine City is almost always a tightly contested game. Our non­conference schedule it tough...we try to schedule good opponents to help us get better. We play a lot of bigger schools: Virginia, Proctor, Cannon Falls, to name a few. We also get to play against Nevis in the Lake Superior Classic at Duluth East (Nevis has been one of the better teams in our section the last couple of years).

Anything else you want people to know about your team? Although we lost a lot from last year, I think we will surprise some people this year. It will likely look a lot different from the last couple of years, but this team will do some things. It might not happen right away, but with a little experience I think we can be peaking by the end of the season.

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