The South Suburban Conference didn’t need to get any tougher in boys’ basketball, but here comes upstart Rosemount.
The Irish played a lot of underclassmen last year and won only seven games all season. They’ve already surpassed that victory total just 10 games into this season.
Coach Bryan Schnettler believes the program’s tide began to turn late last season. The Irish knocked off East Ridge and always-tough Henry Sibley before falling to eventual state champion Apple Valley in the section finals.
“That was kind of a springboard for us,” Schnettler said. “Our guys got some confidence from that and put in a lot of hard work this offseason. So far it’s been fun to watch that hard work pay off for them.”
This is Schnettler’s fifth year in the program, one that has seen some lean years before the 2013-14 push. The team wants to reverse the trend of finishing near the bottom of the South Suburban.
Schnettler has emphasized more skill development within the youth program, which has led to more talented players — smarter and more skilled — ready to contribute at the varsity level.
This year’s roster is balanced, with four players averaging double figures in scoring. The team is making a high percentage of its shots from the free-throw line, the field and three-point range.
The Irish aren’t big or overly athletic. They play a lot of kids and share the basketball well with four guards on the floor.
“We really have four or five guys that can shoot on the floor from three at all times, so it makes it hard for teams to defend,” Schnettler said.
Senior captains Cole Northwick and Garrett Goetz are in their third year starting for the Irish varsity. Both are guards who could surpass the 1,000-point career mark by the end of the season. Northwick is one of the state’s top shooters. Goetz has been Rosemount’s point guard the whole way.
Junior guard Logan Halvorson has stepped up this season, averaging 12 points per game. He started last year as a sophomore.
Kyle Kaupa plays center for the Irish, but he also can shoot the ball.
Matt Stephenson didn’t play a lot last year, but he’s now the team’s leading scorer, averaging 15 points per game. The lefty is shooting at a high percentage from the field and the free-throw line and getting to the rim consistently.
“The guys are excited,’’ Schnettler said. “We’ve already won more games this year before January than we did all last regular season. And I think guys are starting to expect it. When you put that much time into it as an individual and as a team, you start to expect success.”
Rosemount beat highly touted Cretin-Derham Hall 72-62 on Dec. 28, which added even more excitement. But after the game, Schnettler reminded his players about the team’s goals.
“This is what we wanted to do,” Schnettler said of the victory. “This is what we expected to do, but at the same time, it’s December. We want to be playing our best in March, and that’s our ultimate goal. We did that last year, and that’s what we hope to do this year.”