Pioneers aim to regain spark of 2 years ago

Pioneer Josh Johnson attempts to drive around teammate Jonathan Dogbo during a recent practice at the Centra. The Pioneers have high hopes to improve on last year's 10-21 season.

 

Basketball season in Miles City gets underway this weekend when the Miles Community College Pioneers and Lady Pioneers host the Foundation Classic at the MCC Centra.

The Pioneers and Lady Pioneers will take on Rocky Mountain College JV on Friday and Bismarck State College on Saturday. Northwest College is also participating this weekend.

On Friday, the women will tip-off at 5:30 p.m., followed by the men's game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the Lady Pioneers will play at 4 p.m., and the men at 6 p.m.

The Pioneers are coming off a tough 10-21 season a year ago, but with new faces all around the gym, they're ready to get back to their winning ways of two years ago.

But first, the Pioneers are ready to play someone other than themselves.

"I think we need to finally play a game," Pioneers Head Coach Chase Tait said."We're excited to get things going and see where we're at. We have a lot of new faces, running some new things. I think we're all tired of pounding on each other. It'll be good to go out and play some games and see where we're at."

Jonathan Dogbo returns as the most experienced of the sophomore class. He started 22 of the 30 games, averaging 23 minutes per game. He was the second leading scorer for the Pioneers last year, scoring 10.6 points per game. LaSalle Massey and Conner Smyle also saw considerable time last year as freshmen. Kale Love and Levi Hagemeister saw limited time last year. Jackson Boese also returns, but will be battling a shoulder injury.

"You hope to get some leadership out of the sophomores," Tait said. "The bad thing is, they can't help us out with what we were doing last year, because we've changed everything. But they're hard workers and show a good example and help the new kids out, getting prepared for games."

The Pioneers will be bolstered by a solid group of freshmen and transfers. Ryan McCarty and Quinn Smith transfered to MCC from Montana Tech and will bring solid experience.

The Pioneers will also feature some better size this year, with Smith and freshman Emmanuel Olufemi coming in at 6'10.

"We're excited about our new group," Tait said. "We have a good mix of guards and inside people. We did get some experience from a few guys that transfered in. So there's some experience, being a part of the college athletics. And we have some freshmen that we're going to ask to come in and contribute right away."

The Pioneers will also welcome in new assistant coach Kyle Erickson. A graduate of Broadview-Lavina, Erickson was an All-American at the University of Montana-Western, graduating two years ago. He spent last year as an assistant coach under former Lady Pioneer head coach Lindsay Woolley.

Two years ago, the Pioneers were 26-7 and among the top teams in the Region IX. That year, the Pioneers featured an up-tempo offense that scored nearly 90 points per game. Last year, the Pioneers struggled offensively, scoring just 63 points per game.

"We're going to go back to a full court offense," Tait said. "We'll go back to the 11-12 season, run that offense and pick up some stuff defensively. We're scrapping everything from last year, so it's a learning curve for everyone. We're taking it slow, but have to get ready for games."

The Pioneers did get two scrimmages in earlier this month, against University of Montana-Western and Rocky Mountain College varsity teams. This weekend will be a good tuneup for the Pioneers, as they head off to a pair of tournaments in Williston and Bismarck before returning home for three straight nights of basketball at the end of November.