Bobcat basketball putting heavy emphasis on offseason training
March 14, 2019
THERMOPOLIS - Finishing the season with a 4-20 overall record and a 0-6 record in the 3A Northeast division, there is plenty of work to be done for the Hot Springs County Bobcats boys basketball team during this offseason.
While the Bobcats season came to a close in Wheatland during the 3A East regional tournament Feb. 28- March 2, the 'Cats do have a large part of their roster returning, which includes 3A East All-Conference selection Duder Harvey.
"It was definitely a learning experience, there's no question about that," said HSCHS boys basketball coach Shane Corpening when talking about his first season at the helm of the program. "The encouraging thing is we saw a lot of flashes of brilliance from our team. Even more encouraging is we have a lot of guys coming back for next season. We played a lot of freshmen toward the end of the season like Adley Coyne, Jase Longwell and Hardy Johnson. Those guys getting to play with our juniors that contributed for us, is very encouraging."
Of the flashes of brilliance for the 'Cats, their best came in a 61-55 win over the Worland Warriors on Feb. 16 at Hot Springs County High School. Not only was it a win against the rival Warriors, but it was also their first win against a 3A program since rejoining 3A in 2016.
In that win over the Warriors, the 'Cats, by far, had their best offensive output of the 2018-19 campaign with 61 points. Their second highest scoring effort was 49 points against the 2A Riverside Rebels on Jan. 11.
Finding offensive consistency is going to be among the bigger goals for the 'Cats this season, as they want to improve on their 15th-ranked offense.
"Consistency is a word I used nearly every time when I addressed the team. We have to be more consistent on offense and limiting teams to one shot per possession. A lot of that comes with court time and with what we have planned, we'll hopefully have about 20, 20-plus games we'll play.
"The biggest thing I told all of my players was we have to get bigger, faster and stronger. There's going to be a heavy emphasis in the weight room to work on speed and explosion. Outside that, it's straightforward for everyone. We have to become better shooters and for our guards, we need to be better with our off-hand. I told my guards if they worked on their off-hand over the offseason they're going to be a dominant player next season," said Corpening.
While the 'Cats offense struggled, their defense was solid all season long.
The 'Cats had the No. 8-ranked defense in 3A holding opposing teams to 52 points per game. Establishing that defensive identity was exactly what Corpening wanted in his first year guiding the 'Cats program.
"They bought in defensively and all season that's what we hung our hats on. We finished eighth defensively out of 16 teams. We average 52 points per game scored against us and Worland was 51.9 and Newcastle 51.9. I was really pleased with our defense and the way the kids bought in. At times we were very difficult to score on and that's something to get excited about. We laid a solid foundation with our defense," said Corpening.
The 'Cats do lose two seniors, forward Sean Miller and guard Kolby George graduate this spring. Both players brought a defensive intensity and energy that was needed. And while their final season in the 'Cats program ended with four wins, they certainly helped establish the defensive culture that Corpening was looking for.
"Sean provided a big body and a presence on defense and the glass. Losing him we're going to see those effects on the defensive end and on the boards. Kolby was a good leader for our team and was really solid on defense, we'll definitely miss his defensive energy," said Corpening.
The 3A East, specifically the 3A Northeast division, will see a lot of turnover as many of the top teams (Buffalo, Douglas, Newcastle, Rawlins) in the conference lose a lot of players to graduation. This could present an opportunity for the 'Cats to climb into the top four of the conference and qualify for the 3A State tournament next season.
With that vacuum at the top of the 3A East, it makes this offseason all the more important for the 'Cats.
"Wheatland returns quite a bit of their talent but if you look at our quadrant with Buffalo, Douglas and Newcastle they really lose a lot off their roster. It's going to be a 'Strike while the iron is hot' opportunity for us. When you have those big schools where the talent doesn't quite ebb and flow like it does with a school like Thermopolis, we kind of have to pick and choose our spots to capitalize on.
"Our main focus is just getting better in the offseason and I want the boys to put all their focus into that. But it is something I'm certainly paying attention to and it does look optimistic for us in our quad," said Corpening.