2011-12 Winter Preview: Raptors boys basketball team looking to reload in 2011-12The East Ridge boys basketball team will look quite a bit different this winter, compared to last year, as it returns only one player of last season’s starting five.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
The East Ridge boys basketball team will look quite a bit different this winter, compared to last year, as it returns only one player of last season’s starting five.
With key players Adam Schwartz, John Hietpas, Jake Coquyt, Dillion Johnson and Dayo Idowu graduating in 2011, it will take a new crop of athletes to attempt to improve on last year’s 14-13 overall finish.
East Ridge does return its leading scorer from last year – senior shooting guard Justin Pahl, who netted an average of 15.7 points per game, going over 20 points seven times in 2010-11. Pahl, East Ridge’s captain this season, had a season high of 27 against Trinity of River Ridge and 25 points against Suburban East Conference foes Mounds View and Roseville. With 749 points in his two years of varsity basketball Pahl will likely eclipse the 1,000 point plateau this winter.
Other key players returning to the Raptors’ roster include: Nnamdi Nwokolo, Jarred Morris, Conrad Sexe, Nate Roese, Trevor Fisher and Brian Ishola. After Pahl, Sexe, a junior center, has the most varsity experience of the returning Raptors, averaging 3.4 points last season.
“We are very young with only Justin coming back but we have worked hard in the off season and now are looking forward to see who will step up and compete on a varsity level,” East Ridge head coach Paul Virgin said.
Last year, East Ridge earned a number of landmark wins. The Raptors beat rival Woodbury twice (79-71 and 73-64), topped Forest Lake 69-66 and edged Stillwater 68-55 and Hastings 69-57. However, Roseville beat East Ridge three times – including a 91-81 defeat in the Section 4AAAA opening round. Mounds View and Cretin-Derham Hall each beat East Ridge twice, also, and the Raptors fell to White Bear Lake once. East Ridge improved to 8-10 in the Suburban East Conference last year, which was good for seventh place in the 10-team league.
This season, Virgin expects Cretin-Derham Hall, Roseville and White Bear Lake to be the teams to beat in the SEC. After being moved to Section 3AAAA in the offseason, East Ridge’s main competition in the postseason will likely come from Eastview and Apple Valley, according to Virgin.
The Raptors tip off for the first time on Friday, Dec. 2, at Andover, before East Ridge holds its home opener on Tuesday, Dec. 6, against Minneapolis Southwest.