Boys basketball: Wadena-Deer Creek aims to be a dark horse in Section 8-2A
The Wadena-Deer Creek boys basketball team hopes to lean on its experience to move up in the the Section 8-2A standings in the 2022-23 season. Head coach Kevin Tumberg and senior Isaac Hamann spoke about what it'll take for the Wolverines to get their first playoff win since 2017.
WADENA – Every section has a dark horse.
Wadena-Deer Creek head boys basketball coach, Kevin Tumberg, has a lot of respect for the quality of teams in the Section 8-2A field. He believes he has the good to turn some heads this winter.
"Inside our gym, we definitely have the vibe of nobody expects us to do anything," Tumberg said. "I think people expect teams like Perham and DGF to take it to us. We love it that way. Last year, we won nine of our last 10, and a lot of those were on the road. We just kept telling ourselves that we love leaving other people's gyms quiet. This group loves being an underdog, but we know we're capable of being a top-five team in this section if we do what we're supposed to do."
The Wolverines finished the 2021-22 season with a record of 14-13 and were the 11th-seeded team in the 8-2A playoffs. A first-round matchup with sixth-seeded Hawley halted WDC's upset-minded run before it even started.
This year, The Wolverines are looking to take another step forward into the top half of the field.
"We carry a chip on our shoulder because of how teams think we stack up against them in this section," senior Isaac Hamann said. "We think we can beat anybody if we play our best, and we're looking to surprise some people."
Section 8-2A looks to be one of the toughest statewide. With teams such as Perham, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Pelican Rapids, Hawley and Thief River Falls reloading, the road to a state tournament berth will be well-earned.
In the Park Region Conference, Henning looks like one of the top dogs. Bertha-Hewitt also stands in the way of a conference title.
"Consistency is going to be key," Hamann said. "We can get hot offensively, and if we can find a way to play like that consistently, we're going to win a lot of games this year, including in the playoffs."
WDC is centered around its formidable guard play.
"Teshe Loer and Peyton Church are our guys," Tumberg said. "They're two junior guards, and they're our horses. When they go, we go. They know what's expected of them. It's their car to drive right now. They'll push the rest of these guys to the limit. Philip Ross is another guy that we're going to need to step up and fill the shoes as one of the bigger guys on this team. If we can get 8-10 rebounds and points out of him a night, we'll be just fine. I think our true X-factor will be sophomore Kobe Snyder. He put a lot of hours into the gym this summer, and it's really shown in practice so far. He looks like a dude who's put in the time and could be a guy to find his way into the starting lineup."
Even after losing some key seniors from last year, Tumberg has experience up-and-down the roster, including Hamann, who is coming off a lingering back injury each of the past two seasons.
"Looking at our top 6-8 role guys, almost every single one of them played in about 12 or more minutes in varsity games last year," Tumberg said. "The majority of those guys are juniors. They just look comfortable. When we went into the preseason scrimmages and the first couple of games last year, they were sophomores. They were intimidated. Now, they look confident."
"I've been feeling great," Hamann said. "I got away from the back injury this summer. I haven't felt any pain in anything since then. Even took a few hits in football too, so I'm feeling good."
One of the seniors lost was Payton Rondestvet, who set school records in the post. It's an area that WDC will have to find new depth in as the season goes on.
"As a team, we're going to have to rebound and play solid defense," Tumberg said. "Last year, Payton Rondestvedt became our all-time leading rebounder. We don't have that this year. I'm not worried about our guys running the court and scoring. But if we get in those track meets, can we find a way to shut them down? Can we play defense against Henning? Those are the questions we have to find answers for early on this season."
This group of Wolverines has had success in other sports over the last few years. The WDC football team had its best season in 22 years, while the baseball team is coming off a second-consecutive trip to state. They're looking to carry over the winning mentality to the basketball court and set the bar even higher.
"When I look at our varsity guys, 80% of them played football and had a successful season," Tumberg said. "Let's roll that right into basketball season. This group knows that the process of the last couple of years was about getting experience for those big games when we go to Pelican (Rapids) or when we host Perham."
WDC has yet to win a playoff game since the 2016-17 season, where they beat East Grand Forks 90-84 in the 8-2A opening round. Hamann wants to cap off his senior season by breaking the postseason losing streak.
"Experience is key in a lot of aspects," Hamann said. "We've been in playoff games, and we know what it's like. Hopefully, we can catch a playoff win because we haven't felt that in a long time. I just want to win. That's all that matters."