The Minnewaska Area boys basketball team closed out the 2023-24 season with a 2-25 overall record under first-year head coach Zach Traphagen, which included a 2-12 mark in the WCC.

The Lakers picked up both of their victories over Benson, winning 67-49 at Minnewaska Area, Jan. 18 and at 67-58 at Benson, Feb. 6.

Minnewaska Area also had close losses to BBE (68-66), HLWW (55-47), Litchfield (58-50) and top-ranked Montevideo during the Section 3AA opener, 56-49.

The game against the Thunderhawks was possibly the best of the season for the Lakers, who led 48-45 with 4:35 left in the game before Montevideo battled back for the victory.

Montevideo fell to Morris Area in the next round and the Tigers went on to face Jackson County Central for the Section 3AA title.

•  West Central Area won this year’s WCC title with a 12-2 record, followed by Sauk Centre and Montevideo (both 10-4), Morris Area-CA (9-5), Melrose Area (8-6), BOLD (5-9), Minnewaska Area (2-12) and Benson (0-14).  Next year, Benson has asked to leave the WCC so there might be some additional changes to the conference.

• Seniors who will be lost to graduation from this year’s team are seniors Austin Ballhagen, Alex Panitzke, Ryland Martin, Dylan Alexander and Jack Majerus.

•  Other members of the this year’s Minnewaska Area boys basketball varsity roster were juniors Zach Palmer, Levi Johnson, Jacob Mrnak, Zachary Gugisberg, Tenzin Dahl, Ian Mills, Carter Meyer, Kaiden Harvey, Connor Frey, Owen Meulebroeck and Chase Wacker; and sophomores Marc Gruber and Luke Danielson.

Season statistics

As a team, the Lakers shot 36 percent from the field, including 27 percent on three-pointers.  Minnewaska Area, which averaged 51.5 points per game, also shot 58 percent on free-throws this winter.

The Lakers scored 60 or more points five times this year and Minnewaska Area gave up 75 or more points six times.

•  Marc Gruber led the Lakers in scoring this year with 267 points (10.7 points per game), while Tenzin Dahl was next with 213, followed in the top five by Alex Panitzke with 210 points, Connor Frey with 190 and Dylan Alexander with 116 points.

Those five combined to average about 40 points per game for the Lakers.

Alexander, despite being about 5-foot-11, led the Lakers in scoring with 136 rebounds (5.2 rebounds per game), while Dahl had 118 boards, Gruber had 80, Panitzke had 71 and Meulebroeck pulled down 68 rebounds.

Alexander also led the Lakers in assists with 77 and steals with 42, while Luke Danielson had a team-high eight blocked shots during the season with Meulebroeck rejecting six shots.

Panitzke was second in assists with 61, followed in the top five by Gruber with 38, Levi Johnson with 30 and Dahl with 23, while Panitzke was also second with 37 steals, followed by Dahl with 31, Connor Frey with 29 and Gruber with 22.

•  In shooting percentage, Meulebroeck led all the regulars with a 50 percent shooting percentage from the field, followed by Danielson at 41 percent, Panitzke at 40 percent and Dahl at 38 percent.

The top-30-point shooter was Panitzke, who hit 33 percent of his attempts (35-for-105), while Gruber shot 30 percent and Connor Frey was at 29 percent.  Gruber had a team-high 48 3-pointers this year, while Frey had 42, Panitzke had 35 and the rest of the team combined for 41 more.

The top free-throw shooter for the Lakers this season, with at least 10 attempts, was Alexander (69 percent), followed by Panitzke (64 percent), Frey (63 percent), Dahl (61 percent) and Meulebroeck (60 percent).

•  The Lakers had four 20-point games this season.  Dahl had a season-high 21 points for the Lakers during the first win against Benson, while Alex Panitzke had 26 points during the second win over the Braves, Gruber hit 21 pints during a loss to Barnesville and Owen Meulebroeck also scored 20 points during a loss to NLS.

The top rebounding game was Meulebroeck’s 12 boards against Melrose, while Alexander had 10 rebounds during the second win over Benson.

•  Members of the B-squad team were juniors Carter Meyer, Zach Gugisberg, Ian Mills, Chase Wacker, Owen Meulebroeck, Kaiden Harvey and Connor Frey; and sophomores Tristan O’Neil, Drew Bleick, Carter Huckle, Connor Erickson, Luke Danielson, Mason Danielson, Riley Week, Alan Svec, Ike Spychalla and Oliver VanDerHagen, and members of the C-squad team were freshmen Caleb Kath, Cale Johnsrud, Ben Toohey, Marshal Kopp, Tydan Stewart, Kaleb Allen, Gage Zenk, Caden Christensen, Braeden Ahren, Gavin Flaten and Preston Wilson.

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