WAYNE – Although the Wayne High boys basketball team suffered an opening round state tournament lost last year, WHS snapped a six-year streak of missing out on postseason competition.
The Blue Devil boys suffered a 66-47 loss in the C1-2 District final to Wahoo in 2019 but then took the next step and qualified for the state tournament last year.
Head coach Rob Sweetland will be entering his seventh year leading the Blue Devil boys. Coach Sweetland said the team missed out on the week of conditioning prior to their first day of practice on Monday, November 16.
“So, the kids have been competing for those spots,” said Sweetland. “I feel like we’re progressing. I feel like it’s going to be a learning experience and a learning curve throughout the season but excited to get started.”
Coach Sweetland will be joined by Adam Hoffman (JV), Dillan Wolfgram (freshmen) and Wes Blecke (volunteer).
All of the coaches and players are wearing masks as coach Sweetland added they’re trying to take every precaution.
“We’re getting temps before we practice,” Sweetland added. “We’re asking them how they feel and if they’re not feeling very good, we just ask them to go home. We’re just trying to prevent any cases from turning into more cases.”
WHS nearly doubled their win total from a 12-13 record in the 2018-19 season to finishing 21-7 last year following a 44-38 loss to #3 Lincoln Christian falling in the opening round of the Class C1 state tourney. Wayne High qualified for the state tournament for 29th time in school history.
The team will be in a rebuild/reload year after graduating six seniors which included Shea Sweetland (15.3 ppg/1.7 spg) who’s listed on the Wayne State College roster as well as Tyrus Eischeid (13.9 ppg/8.0 rbp) who’s on the Briar Cliff men’s basketball team. Cody Rogers (6.0 ppg) will compete in track & field at WSC. Other seniors included Josh Lutt (3.1 apg), Noah Lutt and Trevor DeBoer (4.6 ppg).
Opposite of the Wayne High girls team who’ll be returning over 70% of their scoring, the Blue Devil boys graduated 77.5% of their scoring production and will return just one of their top six scorers being Tanner Walling as the junior averaged 8.5 ppg last year.
Coach Sweetland mentioned this year’s group will bring a different type of skill set.
“We have some more traditional post players that we can go to that are kind of bigger bodies that are pretty good at posting up and being physical underneath,” Sweetland mentioned. “Then we have some younger guys that are pretty athletic that can give us a spark here and there.”
Wayne High is set to open their season this Friday with girls and boys JV games opening at 4:30 p.m. The varsity girls will tipoff around 6:15 p.m. followed by the boys game at 7:45 p.m. Wayne High has split the last two meetings with Battle Creek as the Braves won in Wayne last year, 57-49 while the Blue Devils won in Battle Creek, 50-44 the year prior.
Coach Sweetland said Battle Creek graduated their key post players as well as their point guard but they bring back a couple of guards.
“They’re kind of in a turnover phase,” said Sweetland. “We kind of know what we’ll get with Battle Creek. They’re pretty much a man-to-man team and they play hard. Always is a good challenge for our first game.”
The home opener of Wayne High basketball is scheduled for Saturday, December 5 against Ponca. The double header will be carried on Big Red Country ‘KTCH’ 104.9 and waynedailynews.com with pregame coverage set for about 5 p.m. The girls varsity game will tipoff at 5:15 p.m. from the Jr/Sr high school at the same time as the JV boys game from the elementary school as the varsity boys will follow around 7 p.m. from the Jr/Sr high school during the same time as the JV girls game at the elementary school.