Walk into an Eastview boys’ basketball game for the first time and you will likely notice, right away, the same thing everyone has throughout the team’s 12-4 start to the season.
Whether you happened to come in during one of the Lightning’s many come-from-behind wins, or even if it was in the midst of the team’s upset loss to a hot-shooting Farmington squad, 79-77, last Thursday, it’s going to be hard to keep your eyes off Eastview’s bench.
“Any family or friends that come out to games, it’s the first thing they mention afterward — our bench,” coach Paul Goetz said. “It’s not something you normally see in a high school game, and people just seem to love it. I love it.”
Goetz is referring to the genuine excitement level of his team, and a team-first focus that he says he’s never experienced to this level in his 25 years as a high school basketball head coach.
“We’ve just had a lot of buy-in to the team philosophy, making your teammates better and letting them make you better,” Goetz said. “The kids talk about it all the time: We don’t have any superstars on the team, but we have 12 really, really good basketball players. And if we all do our jobs and make each other better, then we’ll see success.”
Success would be another thing all of those in attendance have witnessed this year, as Eastview has defied many skeptics’ tepid expectations for the Lightning this season.
With a roster consisting mainly of juniors and seniors, Eastview has leaned heavily on its experience — and scar tissue — to shape this season’s results.
Of the Lightning’s four losses as of Tuesday, three had come to Eden Prairie, Apple Valley and Hopkins, each of which are ranked in the top 10 for Class 4A.
“There have just been a lot of games this year where we might get down early, and last year, we would’ve wound up losing by 15 or 20 points,” Goetz said. “But, now, we’re fighting to get back into it. We’ve shown a lot of resiliency and toughness, and we’ve won some games that maybe we shouldn’t have won, just because of that attitude and teamwork.”
This comes on the heels of a 2013-14 season in which the Lightning, after a 4-1 start, finished with a 6-21 record. Including a quick exit in the section tournament, Eastview lost 20 of its last 22 games.
Somehow, though, that difficult season bred success, Goetz said.
The Lightning returned virtually every player from last year’s team, and the coach said the attitude is “night and day different.”
Seniors Keegan Dickson and Drew Guebert have helped lead the way. As the team’s leading scorers, Dickson (15.3 points per game) and Guebert (15.1) are dual, inside-outside threats who score with efficiency. Guebert has shot 56.7 percent from the field (25-of-41 on three-pointers), while Dickson is hitting at 66.3 percent from the floor and has made 20 of his 26 three-point attempts.
Junior guard Sean Ryan has become one of the team’s go-to shooters. Junior point guard Jameson Bryan has really “come into his own” in his third varsity season, Goetz said.
Eastview now hopes to give its bench even more to cheer about as the season heads down the final stretch.
“The team mentality is just so critical,” Goetz said. “The way these kids support each other is really hard to ignore.”