Point guard Sean Mussen returns to his starting role as the I-L boys’ hoop team prepares to open its season on Dec. 7. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
December 03, 2012MEREDITH – After missing out on the postseason a year ago, the Inter-Lakes High School boys' basketball team hopes to return to the dance this winter, as third-year head coach Mike Rathgeber's club looks to overcome the loss of five seniors to graduation.
I-L finished 5-13 overall last season, though the Lakers won two of their final three games to close on a high note.
"Our goal is to play better as we get into February and qualify for the tournament, then reevaluate what we want to do," said Rathgeber. "But qualifying first and foremost is our goal. We want to be able to extend the season."
Senior point guard Sean Mussen looks to lead the way for the Lakers, as the quick floor general gained some big minute experience as a junior last year.
"Sean is our quarterback and he's going to run the offense for us," said Rathgeber. "We're depending on him to get things clicking."
Classmate Mitch Jurius also returns to the lineup, and the senior forward is the most experienced front line player on the I-L roster.
"Mitch is a guy who we're hoping can pick up right where he left off from last year," Rathgeber said.
Junior Sean Mahoney will man the middle for I-L, and the imposing center has impressed during the early-going.
"Sean Mahoney has had a great preseason," lauded Rathgeber. "We're looking for continued good stuff from him. We don't have a lot of size, don't have a lot of depth, so we're going to need him to play well for us."
Guards Kier Vicente and Austin Littlefield are the other returning players for the Lakers, and the duo will be tasked with providing offense from the outside.
"We're going to have to be able to shoot the ball well to open up what limited inside play we have," explained Rathgeber. "We only have one legitimate inside player in Sean Mahoney. So it's obvious that we have to shoot the ball to be successful. That's just a given. If everyone can sag off the perimeter against us and we can't shoot well, we'll be in trouble."
The I-L bench will be made up by a trio of sophomores, as Dillon Dow (guard), Sam Otis (guard) and Chase Dickinson (forward) will be counted on to provide solid minutes right away in their first varsity seasons.
"It's going to be baptism by fire with those kids," said Rathgeber. "They're getting better every day, getting used to varsity action. But we're going to need all three of them to step up and give our starters a little bit of a breather. Their time is very valuable."
The Lakers will find out an awful lot about themselves right off the bat, as the December schedule has I-L playing traditional powers Somersworth, Prospect Mountain and Berlin before the winter break.
"We have a fairly brutal December schedule," admitted Rathgeber. "We're playing three of the four teams in the Final Four last year. So we're just trying to get the returning players and the new players into a rotation and develop."
The coach has been impressed with his defense so far, as the Lakers were solid on that end of the floor in preseason scrimmages against Winnisquam and Sanborn.
"Defensively, we've looked good so far," he said. "Our defense is ahead of our offense at this point, which is pretty typical. We played exceptionally good defense for stretches at a time in those scrimmages."
Things get under way for the Lakers on Dec. 7, when Prospect Mountain comes to Meredith for a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.