Panther Joe Cullen (shown above, left) slashes to the basket during a drill at a recent RVHS practice focused on transitional offense and defense.

RV boys looking to break through and get over the hump in 2014-2015

We always talk about breaking through that wall. We don’t run up to the wall and give up, we have to break through the wall and see what’s on the other side."


In the past two seasons, the Royal Valley boys basketball team has been knocking on the door of some next level success.

A year after an upset victory that pushed them into the sub-state semifinals, the Panthers followed that up by coming one win short of reaching the state tournament last season and finishing the year 10-12 overall. The Panthers had their collective hand on the doorknob and this year they are looking to finally cross over that threshold.

“We always talk about playing better as the season progresses and playing our best at the end of the year. We’ve done that the last couple years, we just have to get over the hump,” RV coach Keith Pelton said.

Royal Valley will have to do that this year without the help of five key seniors who helped push the team to the brink last season. The Panthers will still have two starters returning and a bunch of juniors who made contributions when asked a season ago.

In addition, the players coming back fall more into Pelton’s vision of a defensive-oriented team, which he believes could help make up for the loss of those key contributors to graduation last spring.

“The goal is if we’re going to replace the scoring we have to help out a little bit on defense, maybe hold some people to lower numbers on defense. That would help make that up, too, and they are tough-nosed that way so I think that will help us,” Pelton said. “I think their mentality’s more into they don’t want anybody to get anything so they’re more defensive-minded, I think, than we’ve been in the past. That’s more what I want, too.”

Senior Tristan Tessendorf and junior Noah Rottinghaus are the two starters returning to the team, while role players like Jarrett Roy, Joe Cullen, Kwaki Spoonhunter and Derrick Barger are back as well.

So far in practice, Pelton said seniors like Tessendorf and Cullen have been leading by example, while the juniors have taken on a more vocal leadership role for the team. Even in that role, they are pointing back to the example set by the seniors and Pelton noted they are also fostering some competitive practices that he sees as a benefit.

“I just think these kids are very competitive. They don’t like losing at anything, let alone to each other,” Pelton said. “That competition’s there and they keep it light-hearted, but there’s always a little bit of bragging rights to it and it’s nice to see that they keep the humor in it, but they also don’t like losing.”

Along with being a competitive group, Pelton noted this is a tight-knit squad that spent a lot of time together over the summer. While he said that could be a key to the team’s success this winter, he also noted the Panthers will need to be focused on playing intense defense and smart offense, though he said the team should be served well be its overall toughness.

“We just have to battle through some of the inexperience early and rely on that toughness and take some pride in that. We talk about us being better prepared, being in better shape and tougher than the opponents we face. That’s hard to do in this league because a lot of the teams are the same way, so we have to figure out a way to separate ourselves and do more than what the other team’s are willing to do and I think these kids are going to buy into that,” Pelton said.

The Panthers’ entire schedule this season is almost all Big Seven competition and Pelton emphasized that it is not a league to be taken lightly, with no guaranteed wins, so the Panthers will need to be tough and be able to fight each night out.

Early on, the team has shown a knack for that as Pelton said the players’ favorite drill in practice is the “charge drill,” which is a defensive drill focused on stopping drives to the basket and already the little guys are stepping in to take on the big guys while everyone is diving on the floor, staying active and showing a lot of tenacity in the exercise.

While Royal Valley has some players battling nagging injuries at the start of the season, Pelton believes that is just one more thing that could help the team in the long run as it creates some depth and versatility with other players taking on different roles early on to make up for those missing players.

It’s the coach’s job to see the big picture and while coaches always want their teams to strive for things like league titles and state tournament berths, being able to achieve that boils down to a goal as simple as getting better every game and that is what Pelton is looking for out of this team.

If the Panthers’ strong core of experienced players can continue to progress and improve throughout the season, they may no longer be knocking but instead entering into that next level of success.

“I basically just told them everybody wants to do that, but what are we going to do to get there and what are we willing to do to get there/” Pelton said. “We always talk about breaking through that wall. We don’t run up to the wall and give up, we have to break through the wall and see what’s on the other side. That comes with something as simple as defensive slides, it goes with speed and conditioning. The little things build up and when you do them collectively, hopefully they translate to more wins and more success.”

Returning starters/letter winners:

Tristan Tessendorf, 6’ 3”, sr., forward:  4.3 ppg, 4 rpg

Noah Rottinghaus, 6’ 3”, jr., forward:  4.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg

Joe Cullen, 6’ 5”, sr., forward:  1.3 ppg. 1.1 rpg, 1 bpg

Kwaki Spoonhunter, 6’, jr., guard:  1.6 ppg, 1.4 rpg

Derrick Barger, 5’ 10”, jr., guard

Jarret Roy, 6’ 1”, jr., forward:  2.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg

The Holton Recorder

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Phone: 785-364-3141

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