By Brad Blume
‘Rockers looking to earn two tough road wins
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- After a somewhat shocking defeat this past weekend, the South Dakota School of Mines men’s basketball team returns to Dakota Athletic Conference action this weekend, traveling to North Dakota Friday for a matchup with the Mayville State Comets followed by a trek over to Madison for a bout with the Dakota State Trojans.
The Hardrockers enter the weekend with a 1-2 DAC mark after losing on a Jamestown College three-point buzzer beater that left the entire team, as well as the King Center crowd speechless this past Saturday in Rapid City.
The loss though was bitter sweet. It was a setback for the ‘Rockers to lose the game in that manner, giving the team a 4-13 overall record, but the upside saw the young Mines team toe it up against the conference’s best squad.
“I didn’t know what to expect when we started practicing on Monday,” said Hardrocker head coach Jason Henry. “Our kids came in and were ready to go. That was good to see. We’ve had a good week of practice so far and (the Hardrockers) know how close they are. When you take a team like Jamestown, the top team in our conference, and have a chance to win --- it makes you feel pretty good.”
SD Mines’ Michael Ross, right, powers past a Rocky Mountain College defender during a recent home game as he attempts to score two points. Photo by Brad Blume
So SDM will first turn its attention this weekend to the Comets who are currently .500 on the season with an 8-8 overall record and 2-1 mark in the DAC.
Last season Mayville won the DAC tournament, winning over the Hardrockers in the championship game, and went on to become the NAIA national runners-up. And even though the Comets have lost the core of that squad and are under new direction, they still bring the same sort of dynamic to the basketball court as they did a year ago.
“They have a new coaching staff and it’s definitely different team from last year,” Henry said. “But they still like to run in transition and still like to get up and down the floor. It’s a different team from last year but they still have some skilled kids that can play.” The top player for Mayville being senior guard Tremel Gilot. The Chicago, Ill., native is the Comets’ leading scorer averaging just under 20 markers a game. He is ranked 21st in the NAIA for steals per game (2.4) and is 43rd in points scored per game (18.25). In the conference, he is the DAC’s second leading scorer with 292 total points and is first in steals with 39 total.
“(Gilot) shoots a lot and he scores even more. He was with (the Comets) last year and had a good season,” Henry said. “Mayville lost nine or 10 kids from the national runners-up team but he was one that played a lot of minutes and had some big games for them last year. He was one of the guys that needed to pick up the slack for the Comets coming in this season and he’s done that --- especially scoring.”
The Comets have another competent guard in Marques Benjamin who is listed at second in the nation in assists per game (7.2) and 30th in defensive rebounds per game (5.6). He also leads the DAC in assists with 115.
“He’s another quick kid who kind of runs the show for Mayville. He’s good at finding guys when they are open but is also one that can definitely score,” Henry said.
The coach added that the keys to defeating Mayville would be to contain Gilot and make sure that the Hardrockers play exceptional defense. Henry said they also want to accomplish select goals during the contest.
“We have to make sure we can meet our goals we set for each game --- shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from the three-point line and 15 or less turnovers,” the coach said. “If we can do those things, we can definitely be there.”
Saturday’s matchup pits the ‘Rockers against one of the conference’s premier post players in Joe Backus. The 6-foot-8-inch senior appears to be the life blood of the 3-13 (1-2) Trojans. He is currently the DAC’s third leading scorer with 291 points and is fifth overall in field goal percentage (.49) and third in total rebounds with 114.
“He’s a good rebounder and one of the best posts we will play against all year. He’s had some big games again this year,” Henry said. “We need to control him and limit his touches and make sure he doesn’t get a ton of offensive rebounds. He is a key for them.”
Henry also had good things to say about the rest of the team and that even when opponents attempt to shut Backus down, there have been other Trojans that have stepped in at different times to have big games. Dakota State defeated Dickinson on the road last weekend and are looking to add to the momentum this weekend on their home floor.
“They are capable of scoring a lot of points,” Henry added.
Good news for the Hardrockers is that they will get back post player Brandon Smith this weekend. The 6-8 junior missed the last two games with a back injury. Smith was surely missed in those contests, averaging 11.27 a game and is the teams leading rebounder with
91 total, averaging 6.1 a game.
“It will be good to have him back,” Henry said.
Add him to the mix of freshman A.J. Trennepohl and sophomore Robbie Fedor, who are both scoring just over 11 points a contest, and the Hardrockers are establishing themselves as a solid and balanced offense and that is something they will need if they want to advance to that next level of play.
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Devereaux Library. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.