The Lake Mills boys basketball team returns four of its five starters, losing only point guard J.T. Toepfer, from a team that went 18-6 a season ago.
The L-Cats finished 8-2 in Capitol North play and are aiming to win their first conference title in three seasons.
“Our No. 1 goal is to get a Capitol North championship back in Lake Mills,” eighth-year Lake Mills coach Steve Hicklin said. “Get to the tournament and go from there, that’s kind of what our eye is on right now.”
Lake Mills averaged 66.9 points a season ago with four players averaging double digits in Toepfer (12.0 points per game), senior guard Matt Johnson (11.9 ppg), junior wing Charlie Bender (11.7 ppg) and junior forward Adam Moen (10.4 ppg).
“The great thing about this crew is that they are all unselfish and can all score,” Hicklin said. “They can score at the basket and get it going inside. We have a potential to be efficient regardless of what defense we come across. Can go bigger with Jaxson (Retrum) in or go smaller with 5-out, we will have a few different looks we give teams.”
Senior Mike Herrington (8.2 ppg) and junior Drew Stoddard (5.4 ppg) figure to round out a starting lineup, along with Johnson, Bender and Moen. The lineup is unchanged from a season ago other than Stoddard replacing Toepfer at point guard.
Junior forwards Jaxson Retrum (5.2 ppg) and Grant Horkan will play roles off the bench.
“No matter who gets the rebound for us, they can start the break and can get out and go,” Hicklin said. “Adam is one of the best rebounders, with that ability, and the same with Jaxson. He can handle the ball like a guard. They can trigger the break, letting the shooters get ahead.”
Junior point guard John Wilke, who didn’t play a season ago, is in the fold as are a collection of freshman and sophomores who may vie for minutes.
The L-Cats, who have two returning second team all-conference performers in Bender and Moen, will rely on man-to-man defense.
“We’re primarily man-to-man. Zone is something we’ve always got in the back pocket,” Hicklin said. “We like to push the tempo with our pressure and half-court traps. That will kind of be our identity is tough man-to-man defense.”
Lakeside Lutheran, the defending Capitol North champions, graduated a large senior class as did third-place Watertown Luther Prep. Hicklin knows the Warriors and Phoenix are plenty capable of reloading quickly and also has his eyes on Lodi, a group that returns second team all-conference player Jack Persike and has a young group ready to compete that went undefeated on the JV circuit last season.
The L-Cats once again will play a competitive non-conference schedule, including the season-opener November 26 at Stoughton, and face Delafield St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy on the road as they look to build a solid playoff resume.
“That’s the way we look at our non-conference schedule is to prepare us for the Capitol North. We are going to have to get ready for some of the best teams in the playoffs right away, that’s kind of the design we have here,” Hicklin said.
Lake Mills has an experienced, balanced lineup in its quest to secure the Capitol North crown in 2019-2020.