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HOLCOMBE — Following an East Lakeland Conference title a season ago the Lake Holcombe boys basketball team will need to rebuild after significant departures.

But that doesn’t mean the Chieftains don’t believe they can make a run to repeat as conference champions.

“We’re going to be inexperienced, but these kids want it,” Lake Holcombe coach Joy Webster said of this year’s team. “A big part of basketball is wanting it, coming to practice and that will to win. And these guys got that will to win.”

After a season in which the team finished 18-6 overall and 11-1 in conference, the Chieftains lose two all-conference players in Trent Novak (first team) and Brady Webster (second team) and will be light on experience and veteran players with just one senior and four letterwinners on the roster.

Looking to lead Lake Holcombe is junior Kaden Kinney, a first team All-Lakeland guard last season. Kinney averaged 14.4 points per game a season ago and will be looked upon to carry a big scoring load.

Junior guard Josh Jones (3 points) and sophomores Kaden Crank (1 point) and Brock Flater (4.2 points) will be counted on this season with bigger roles.

“I expect Kaden Kinney to be a role model,” Webster said. “Brock Flater he was a freshman last year. It took a while to get that ‘freshmanness’ out of him but he came on strong. I picture him to have a major role in the game as well as Josh Jones.

“Kaden Crank got very few minutes on the varsity floor last year, he’ll be having a lot of minutes (this season). He put in that time this summer and he’s a new ball player.”

Newcomers Tristan Jones — the team’s lone senior — Colton Minnick, Tyler Dixon, Caleb Johnson and Xzavier Merrill will also see minutes this season and will have supporting roles around the returning players.

The Chieftains lack size, so Webster said they will be a team that will rely on their quickness and ability to be disruptive on defense. Offensively the Chieftains hope to be an entertaining fast-paced scoring attack that keeps teams off balance with their aggressiveness.

“The defense is going to have to be our offense,” Webster said. “We’re not going to be real big, we’re going to get one shot a lot of times because we’re coming in pretty small but we’re going to have to get that one shot and go.”

Webster hopes her squad can remain in the mix at the top of the East Lakeland with Birchwood, Bruce and Flambeau the early favorites after returning large portions of its rosters from last season.

The Chieftains begin the season at Rib Lake on Thursday, where Webster said the matchup will provide a good barometer of where the team is at prior to East Lakeland play.

Next Tuesday Lake Holcombe hosts Cornell in the opening game of conference action. The Chieftains follow that up with two more home games, against Flambeau on Dec. 6 and a nonconference contest with Shell Lake on Dec. 11.

While teams that bring back more production from last year’s rosters seem to be the favorites to win the East Lakeland, Webster isn’t ready to give in as she believes the Lake Holcombe squad has enough to fight those teams for the top spot in the conference.

“I think teams have already picked their teams to be at the top and I don’t know why we can’t still fight for the top spot,” Webster said. “Once you win you’re the team to beat.”

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Chippewa Herald sports reporter

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