The Chatfield boys should have another strong team this season once the players get into basketball shape.

Much of the team was involved in the state championship football team, which just ended its season Friday, Nov. 29. The basketball team started the season with just six or seven varsity players practicing through the first couple weeks.

"Starting this far behind will really hurt us in the beginning but we should be able to overcome it," said coach Tom Bance.

Still, Bance expects a strong season as he has good depth. Last year, the team was 15-11, and 14-6 in conference action.

Returning letter winners include eight seniors: 6'1" Nate Skare, the team's leading scorer last season who averaged 13 points and 5.5 rebounds per game; 5'9" Jake Neis, who led the team in assists last year with 7.5 points and 4 assists per game; 6'3" Jayme LaPlante, the team's leading rebounder last season who averaged 11 points and 7 rebounds per game; 6'5" Brandon Adler; 5'7" Zach Eggers; 6'1" Justin Friedrich; 6'0" Noah Grant; and 6'0" Dalton Schwier. Two juniors -6'0" Christian Bance, who averaged 7 points per game, and 6'1" Drew Hurley - also lettered last year.

Others planning to contribute this year are 6'2" Ethan Wolt, 5'9" Alex Bradt and 6'0" TJ Moechnig, all juniors.

Bance expects to have a very strong team this season once the players get into basketball shape. The strengths are "our depth, our shooting, and our experience," he said, while the team's weaknesses are the late start and the low number of "big bodies to defend the post."

This is Bance's 12th year coaching in Chatfield as the head coach, and his 15th year as a head coach overall. He was head coach at St. Paul Como Park for three years previous to getting hired in Chatfield. His record in Chatfield is 149-139.

He expects this year's team to be in the hunt for the Three Rivers Conference title with Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Rushford-Peterson and Caledonia.

The Gophers were scheduled to open the season Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Kingsland. The game was played after this edition went to press. They continue on the road this week with games at St. Charles Friday and Pine Island Saturday. Game time on Saturday is 3 p.m.

They remain on the road next Tuesday at Caledonia, for the first of two games against conference favorites next week, and return for the home opener on Thursday, Dec. 19, against Rushford-Peterson.