Basketball: Mariner boys have 'high hopes'
Silver Bay ended its 2016-17 campaign getting edged in the Section 7A quarterfinals by Lakeview Christian Academy at Roman Gym in Duluth, but this season with an older, more experienced squad, the Mariners' expectations are high.
Senior guard Jason Blood will lead a squad that's one at least one playoff game each of the past two years under coach Terry Blood. Jason reached 1,000 points early last season and should be in line to set the all-time Silver Bay record sometime this season.
In the past, Jason has been mainly a perimeter player, but over the past year, he has grown a couple of inches and gained weight and as well as strength, which will help him play a strong game near the rim.
"He's gotten a lot stronger," Terry said. "He's been in the weight room for a few years now and he's gotten a lot more physical around the hoop.We need a little more inside play and I think Jason is going to do that."
With Jason now more than 6 feet tall, the Mariners have three players at least 6 feet tall and able to play around the rim — a stark change from two years ago, when just one Silver Bay player stood at least that tall.
Junior Weston Monson, the tallest of the Mariners, has worked on his game relentlessly over the summer and focused on strength and conditioning as well as adding an outside shot to his game.
"Weston has improved tremendously," Terry said. "You won't even recognize him. He's developed an outside shot. His court sense of when to cut, when to post, when to pick has just improved so much."
The last of the three is sophomore Mason Ollman, a player who made some strides as a freshman playing varsity. He also put in even more work over the summer and before school during the fall.
"He's bigger; he's more confident," Terry said. "He's a gym rat, anyway. When I get to the school at 7, he's in there shooting. He knows basketball. He's a gym rat. He can shoot and he knows how to pass."
The Mariners got some good news earlier this month when they learned sharpshooter Riley Tiboni will be able to play. Tiboni is a terrific spot-up shooter, but he initially believed he tore his ACL playing football this fall. After some testing, Tiboni learned his ACL was strained and not torn. He would be able to play basketball after a few weeks off.
Silver Bay has high expectations this year, but the team will need contributions from guard Zach Blood and forward Jared DeHart.
The team is quicker than Mariner teams of the past couple of years. Terry hopes to play at a faster pace on offense and play a trapping, man-to-man defense. DeHart and Ollman will typically match up with the top offensive players on the opposing team, with Zach Blood and Tiboni spreading the floor with outside shooting.
"The energy is high," Terry Blood said. "I'm seeing things I haven't seen in a while with court awareness and being physical and smart. You never know, but we have high hopes."
If the Mariners can stay healthy and the young players continue to develop, Silver Bay could be competing for a section title by the end of February.