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Ball-handling key for Tell City

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By LARRY GOFFINET Sports Editor

TELL CITY—If Tell City can improve its ball-handling, its boys basketball team could be much improved this year.

The Marksmen had a lot of games with at least 20 turnovers as they went 4-16 last year, including 20 in a sectional loss to eventual champion Perry Central. So second-year coach Brent Owen said “taking care of the basketball” is his biggest concern as his team prepares for Saturday’s season opener.

He does have veteran guards, though, as senior Trent Zuelly returns for his third season as the point guard. Drew Mowery, last year’s third guard, will join him in the starting lineup. Zuelly led the team in assists last year at 4.7 per game and is the top returning scorer at 5.4 points per game.

With 10 seniors on the roster Owen has veterans at nearly every position. So he said “good leadership” could be the team’s main strength. “I think Brennan Malone, Reese Miller, Trent Zuelly and Grant Sanders are all good leaders.”

Malone, a 6-foot-3 forward-center, and Miller, a 6-1 forward, are the other starters returning from last year’s sectional game. Sanders, a 6-3 center, started several games last year and likely will this year. Owen said he or senior guard Rhett Baumeister could be the fifth starter “depending on the other team’s personnel and how they’ve played in practice.” Whichever one of those two who does not start will join sophomores Gant Miller and Hunter Rowe and senior Chris Schaefer as the top reserves.

Despite the overall experience, Owen said the team’s ball-handling is “not very good. Our guards’ ball-handling has gotten better, but our bigs have to get better with their passing. In our offense they come out on the floor quite a bit.”

The Marksmen will again run basically a flex offense, which Owen describes as “push and patience.” He wasn’t pleased with the team’s shooting in Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage but said, “I think it’s better than we showed today.”

He said Mowery, Baumeister and Zuelly are the top three perimeter shooters. “I think those three have really improved. They got in the gym and took a lot of shots this summer.” Owen said Sanders and Malone are the main low-post threats and “Reese is not bad there but he’s under-sized.” The coach said Zuelly is the team’s top driver “and Drew has really improved.”

He said the team’s rebounding has also improved. “I think it’s good—that’s probably our best strength right now.” Malone led the team with 6.8 rebounds per game last year. Owen wants to play mostly man-to-man defense and said, “I think we’ve gotten better at it.” But he said the team will also “throw in a curveball” on defense at times, though “I don’t know what that’s going to be yet.” He said Schaefer on the perimeter and Sanders in the post are probably the team’s top defensive players. Quickness helps on defense and Owen rated the Marksmen’s team quickness as “average. It’s better than last year.”

Preseason polls are often based on what a team did last year and Owen noted the Marksmen have been picked ninth in the nine-team PAC in the preseason coaches poll.

“I think we fit in above where we were picked,” though, he said. He listed Heritage Hills, which returns All-PAC players Devon Merder and Gavin Schaefer, as the conference favorite. “Southridge is also a good team. I think it kind of levels off after that.”

Southridge has moved up to Class 3A and thus will not be in Tell City’s sectional, which will be played at Boonville this year. Can the Marksmen compete for the sectional title? “I hope so,” said Owen. “We just have to win some games against good opponents during the regular season to give us some confidence heading into the sectional.”