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By LARRY GOFFINET
CANNELTON—Cannelton may have its quickest boys basketball team ever. And the Bulldogs also have more depth than they have in years.
The Bulldogs return two quick starting guards from last year’s 5-17 team, senior Brandon Cook and junior Elijah Littles.
As quick as anyone in southwestern Indiana with the basketball, Cook averaged a school-record 26.7 points per game last year and 6.4 rebounds, 3.1 steals and 2.6 assists per game.
Littles averaged 9.3 points per game and came on strong in the second half of the season, including a 16-point performance against Evansville Day in the Class A sectional championship game.
Two quick players who have transferred back from Tell City after playing for Cannelton two years ago, senior forward Hunter Herzog and junior guard Tristan Simmons, join them. Herzog was the team’s quickest player two years ago.
Throw in a quick freshman guard, Damon Powers, and it’s no wonder that ninth-year Cannelton Coach Brian Garrett called this “the quickest team I’ve ever had. We should be quicker than 90 to 95 percent of the teams we play.”
The 18 players on the team is also “the most I’ve had,” said Garrett.
With nine expected to play regularly on the varsity, the Bulldogs have the depth to press a lot if they want to. But Garrett said he won’t do it “a whole lot. I think we get into foul trouble that way.”
They will use multiple defenses, including more man-to-man than usual. “I’m really impressed with our man-to-man because of our quickness,” said Garrett.
He will use a three-guard starting lineup with Cook, Simmons and Little.
Quinn Duke, a 6-foot-4 junior center, is a third returning starter from last year and represents the team’s only height. He averaged 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last year.
The fifth starter is a tossup among Herzog, Marvin Walls and Powers.
Larry Holman will also see a lot of action when he fully recovers from knee surgery for a torn meniscus. And Steven Smith “shoots the ball extremely well,” said Garrett.
Perimeter shooting is a concern for Garrett. “I don’t have a pure outside shooter like (former Bulldogs) Kyle Powers, Tyler Aud or Cody Lawalin,” he said.
Rating the team’s shooting overall, “I’d give it a C,” he said. “We’re a little better than last year.”
The team’s rebounding “looks OK,” said Garrett. But “that’s something that’s always been a concern” because of the team’s lack of height. “Other than Quinn, they’re all 5-10.”
Duke, who Garrett said is “in much better shape than last year,” will be the team’s main low-post threat. He also thinks Herzog and Simmons “can handle the post OK because of their strength.”
Cook, Simmons and Powers are the team’s best drivers.
“We want Brandon to have the ball as much as he can because he can create,” said Garrett.
With a guard-oriented lineup, the ball-handling should be strong. Garrett said he has “three tremendous ball-handlers” in Simmons, Cook and Powers.
Walls, who averaged 4.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game last year, will be the team’s defensive stopper.
The depth and quickness should make the Bulldogs better than last year, but their schedule may also be stronger.
“Rock Creek should be pretty good—they’ve got two 6-8 kids from the Congo,” said Garrett. “I think Perry Central will be very good. And we always have trouble with Tell City—we haven’t come within 20 points of them since I’ve been here.”
In their sectional he expects defending champion Day School and newcomer Northeast Dubois to be the favorites. “I heard a rumor that Evansville Day got three transfers from Evansville North,” said Garrett.
To win their first sectional title since 1998, the Bulldogs “have to have a favorable draw,” said Garrett. “If we can get a bye and play Friday and Saturday, I think we’ve got just as good a chance as anybody.
“I think we can match up fairly well with everybody. It just depends on how well we play together.”