The Troy High School boys basketball team knows they face a tough start to the Class B Western Divisional Tournament, but are ready to take each game as it comes.
In their first game Thursday, the Trojans faced Loyola Sacred Heart High School, an opponent that beat them 98-33 at their last meeting.
Yet, no matter how that first game goes, the boys don’t intend to allow anything to keep them down during the rest of the tournament.
“Last year we started out with Loyola, and they’re always going to be tough, but I really don’t try to focus on that going in,” senior AJ Faur said. “Just — game by game.”
Junior Dylan Cummings said that the team knows they have to move on if they encounter problems.
“We’ll play hard against them, and see what happens, and play the next game the same way,” he said.
The Trojans are determined to make any team that thinks they can beat Troy work for that win, said junior Alex Fruend.
Whether it’s the next play or the next game, continuing to look forward is a theme Faur said he has heard since at least his freshman year. It also contributes to how the Trojans work as a team, as they look to what they are going to do next rather than focusing on anyone’s errors.
“I think, also, some of the reason we play well together is because we’ve all played from junior high until now with each other,” Cummings said.
“It’s just a comfortable feeling. The only year I haven’t played with these guys is my freshman year,” Faur said.
Fruend said he has loved basketball since he started playing in seventh grade, and part of that is just getting to go out and play ball with his team.
“There’s something that I like about when you make a play as a team,” Cummings said. “I like when the team makes a good play, because it makes the team look really good.”
For the rest of the Trojans, Faur said he just wants to see his teammates showing their confidence and making their shots.
Faur said his personal challenge for the tournament is to excel at moving the ball on offense.
“AJ’s been forced into the point position since Trevor Hoagland got injured, so he’s pretty much the point,” said Head Coach Bradley Dunn-meier. “There’s a lot of pressure on him, and he’s really taken it well.”
Despite a 1-16 season, there has been progress for the team.
“I think we’ve learned a lot from playing these better teams,” Fruend said.
Fruend thinks it’s good for the rest of the team — which is mostly juniors — to get the tournament play experience and see the pressure there, he said. Yet, seeing the teams they are up against is also motivation to continue training through the offseason and prepare to come back better next year.
Dunn-meier said he is proud of his team and the dedication he has seen to improving.
Even just by getting their strength up in the weight room between seasons and working on their shooting, Dunn-meier expects to see the players reap dividends.
The team’s shooting average for the season has been around 30 percent, so simply hitting more shots could have a noticeable impact.
“That’s been really our nemesis all year,” Dunn-meier said.
“They know, and I think they want to improve — they really have a desire to do that they didn’t have last year,” he said.
For the tournament, Dunn-meier said that they have added some movement to their offense.
“I think they’re really starting to feel comfortable with that, and I hope that comfort with the offense now translates into comfort with their shooting, and we start getting a few more shots,” he said.
But no matter the outcome, Dunn-meier said he wants the team to take in the tournament environment, as it’s something not everyone gets to experience.
“There’s a moment there that I want them to savor, and I really hope that’s the thing they take away from it most: just that they have this opportunity, and I hope they make the best of it,” he said.
Dun-meier said he has enjoyed working with the Trojans.
“They never quit,” he said. “It didn’t matter if we were down by 20, 30, 40 points, they were still working hard right to the end of the game. They just never stop.”
Once someone has learned that kind of determination, it can carry over into the rest of life, Dunn-meier said.
“If they’re willing to work hard no matter what they’re facing, that’s probably one of the best life lessons they can learn, and I think these kids have mastered that,” he said.