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Huskies prepared to defend Class B crown

Bridgewater-Emery's Jamin Arend (2) drives past Wolsey-Wessington's Austin Kemnitz (4) during the Class B state championship last year at Wachs Arena in Aberdeen. (Matt Gade / Republic)

EMERY — With plenty of talent returning, the Bridgewater-Emery boys basketball team is looking to be in the mix for another state championship.

The Huskies, who went 26-0 en route to the school's first Class B state title, return 12 letterwinners from last year's team, including three starters. Led by junior all-staters Jamin Arend and Sawyer Schultz, B-E isn't looking to change much from its winning formula. Head coach Scott Schultz the team isn't approaching the season any different as defending state champions.

"It's a brand new year. Everyone starts over from scratch," coach Schultz said. "We're playing the same way and practicing the same way."

Before the season even started, the Huskies suffered a setback when Cole Gassman tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a football game on Sept. 8. Gassman, a senior, was the team's starting point guard last year.

"Early on, we are going to have to find how to fill his position and get somebody going there," Schultz said. "It helps to bring experience back. The big key will try to transition that point guard spot until Cole is healthy again."

Schultz said the team is hopeful Gassman can return to the court by the end of the season. But until Gassman's return, Sawyer Schultz, who averaged 15 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, and Arend, who averaged 13.5 points, will be counted out to provide both scoring and leadership.

"They’re going to have be leaders on the floor for us," Scott Schultz said. "They have been under fire the most for us. They'll have to help bring the rest of the group along with them. Hopefully, by mid-season or end of the year, we'll be playing well together and knowing what everyone is doing."

One player Schultz said he's expecting to play a bigger role for the Huskies this year is Duot VanSickle. The 6-foot-4 senior center saw some action coming off the bench last year, averaging 2.4 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in 24 games played.

"He played some last year and he can step up there," Schultz said. "He played a lot of JV and knows what we are doing."

Schultz also mentioned the team will look to Carter Dye, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, to jump into the starting lineup and make an impact. Dye played in every game last year and averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

Defense will be a high priority for B-E throughout the season and Schultz added his team is looking forward to getting the season started.

"We need to continue to share the ball and rebound like we did last year," Schultz said. "Inside, I think we will match up pretty well with anybody."

New regions and alignments were adapted for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons by the South Dakota High School Activities Association. The Huskies moved out of Region 4B and into Region 5B and Schultz pointed to Canistota, Irene-Wakonda and Viborg-Hurley as teams that will challenge the Huskies in the region.

Across the state, Schultz noted Class B semifinalist Sully Buttes will be a tough team along with Clark/Willow Lake and Colman-Egan. Bridgewater-Emery plays at Dell Rapids St. Mary on Dec. 11 to open the season.

"There's eight or 10 teams, no problem that could be in the mix at the end of the year," he said. "It'll be a real fun year for everybody."