A look up and down the Rapid City Christian boys' basketball roster reveals one thing; the Comets don't have a single senior suiting up for them this season.
So far, it hasn't mattered.
Christian used a strong fourth quarter to pull away from Bison and win 63-45 Tuesday night, improving its record to 6-1.
It's because, as junior Levi Vanden Bos said, the team does have experience even though it lacks seniors.
"We had two seniors last year who were really good seniors, and we’re missing them, but this year but we have four starters coming back, so it’s great," he said. "I know we have the mentality we have to have, but it’s still hard at times knowing that us juniors have to be leaders too. We’re still getting used to that, but it’s fun when you have success."
Vanden Bos had a lot of success Tuesday night, leading all scorers with 17 points, most of it coming off of drives to the basket.
"I have the mentality of ‘I’m always going to make it,' even if it’s through contact. Sometimes you realize you’re going to get fouled, but you still have to go through with it," he said of his approaching when driving through the lane. "I’m used to it. It hurts afterwards, but it’s worth it."
Driving to the basket was what Christian coach Kyle Courtney said was the offensive game plan.
"We knew they were going to play man, so we wanted to attack the basket, and we didn’t make great decisions in the first half," he said. "We didn’t do a great job of finishing baskets in the first half, but I felt like we did a better job at the beginning of the fourth quarter or late in the third quarter."
Courtney said that isn't always the offensive game plan, but he thought it worked against the Cardinals.
"I feel like we have some outside shooters. I just felt like against their man-to-man, we could get that aggressiveness and attack the basket," he said. "Hopefully get some of their guys into foul trouble, especially their three really good players, and I think we did that."
Those three Bison players were Jim Brockel, who scored 11, Jaren Beckman who had 13 and Jace Prelle, who led the team with 14.
For most of the game, the Cardinals gave the Comets all they could handle. Christian led 18-16 at the end of the first quarter, but in the second quarter Bison made a run, and tied the game at 19-all with 5:14 left in the half.
Christian scored the next seven points, only to have the Cardinals cut the lead to three at halftime, trailing 29-26.
"I think Bison is a pretty well-coached team. They’re a tough team and they’re physical and gave us all we could handle. They have a couple of good guards, so I think credit goes to them because they hit some tough shots," Courtney said. "We knew we had to switch things up. We played a little jump defense on them to start and we switched into a 1-3-1 to slow their shooters down, and I think that was effective."
The zone worked, as Bison scored only seven points in the third quarter and trailed 43-33 with eight minutes remaining. After that, the Comets kept the foot on the gas and outscored the Cardinals 20-12 in the fourth.
Zane Schlabach had a big fourth quarter and finished the game with 12 points.
Bison coach Bailey Ellison declined to comment after the game, but Beckman said the Cardinals needed more defense down the stretch.
"They had a good starting five and we didn’t play good enough defense. We just wanted to run our offense, box-out, rebound, play hard defense and try our best on every play," he said. "We’ll just keep working on our defense in practice and try to get better."
Bison is 3-2 on the season and travels to McIntosh Thursday for a 4 p.m. tip.
The Comets are 6-1 and will travel to Buffalo to face Harding County Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
Courtney said he knows the Ranchers will pose a tough challenge, but so far he is pretty satisfied with the ability of his team, even if it lacks traditional senior leadership.
"This group of kids are a joy to coach because they play as a team and they’re coachable," he said. "We don’t have a lot of stand-out athletes, but we have a lot of good athletes that work well together and play within the framework of the team. I think that’s been a key for us."