HARTINGTON — This whole state basketball tournament trip thing is becoming a Cedar Catholic Trojans version of Excalibur, its Holy Grail.
Head coach Matt Steffen enters his 14th year in search of the program’s first trip to a state tournament after four years outside looking in and maybe this winter could see them off to State in March.
Steffen has gone 197-119 in the previous 13 seasons and he hopes to get back to a district final, something the Trojans have missed out on the last two seasons.
“The last two years we ran into Ponca and they won state two years ago,” Steffen said. “Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw. Sometimes it’s how your SubDistricts are set up. Last year we had both Laurel and Ponca and they were both really good.”
Cedar Catholic is in a little more favorable position for SubDistricts this season.
The Trojans will compete in SubDistrict C2-5 this year along with Crofton, Lutheran High Northeast, Stanton and Wisner-Pilger.
Last year, the Trojans went 16-6 and 7-1 in Mid-States Conference play and learned a lot during the process.
“We had a good year last year in spite of playing two freshmen quite a few minutes,” Steffen said.
Cedar will have to find a way to replace both its offensive leader and its emotional leader from last year.
“We graduated two seniors in Matthew Becker and Josh Pinkelman.
Cedar split with state qualifier Ponca, losing to them in Subs.
“We will be young again this year with probable starters being three sophomores, a junior and a senior.
Returning starters include senior Brady Steffen who played the point and provided seven points an outing, junior outside shooting expert Myles Thoene, who is the leading returning scorer at 14 ppg and sophomore forward Charlie Schroeder, who chipped in with good size and eight points per game.
Throw in sophomores Tate and Hunter Thoene and Carter Arens who bring a combination of athleticism and good shooting and Steffen has plenty to work with.
“I feel we have the potential to be a very good team,” Steffen said. “We have three returning starters and quite a few kids played a lot of minutes. We will need to develop a rotation and team chemistry. We have some size, but no experience at the five position. It will be important that someone steps up inside for us.
The team will succeed if it is able to control the tempo of the game, and dominate on the boards, Steffen said.
“Our season will hinge on our ability to dictate tempo and execute on offense and defense,” he said. “We will also need to rebound well to be successful in games against good athletes in our conference.”
The schedule will include another tough slate of opposition and teams like BRLD, Laurel, Ponca, Pierce, Battle Creek and Wayne offer different challenges from both conference and non-conference play.
On top of the regular tough conference schedule, Cedar will be playing in the always competitive Holiday tourney in Wayne and Cedar will be participating in the Knights Classic in Fremont after New Year’s and of course the Mid-States Conference Tournament.
“Every year with us being in a conference playing bigger schools – with five C1 schools, so the schedule helps us. The speed of the game in C1 is a little quicker so if you can play with them you can do OK, but sometimes you get beat up a little bit,” he said.
Dakota Valley has also been added to the schedule this year.
“Dakota Valley is a big school and they will be tough. Ponca is a tough school. Some years it just depends.
“Our conference schedule, those schools usually give us some good competition.”
Cedar Catholic opens at Boone Central on Friday.