Though the Libby High School boys basketball team has only four returning players with a significant amount of varsity play time, the team has a lot of quality to offer this season.
All, four of the most experienced players — juniors JJ Davis and Keith Johnson, sophomore Jay Beagle and senior Ryggs Johnston — are “all able to score the ball,” said Head Coach Josh Bean.
Seniors Kevin Barnes and Tim Goodman also come back with some varsity experience, he said.
With a strong core of players who are experienced both on the court and playing together, the less experienced players are coming along with their timing and moves, he said.
The team is working on a new zone offense — more tailored to the current team — but most of the plays and sets are familiar to the players, Bean said.
On the defensive side, the Loggers are looking at some of the same challenges they faced last season, he said.
“We’re not necessarily undersized — we’ve got great length with Tim Goodman and Kevin Barnes and Keith Johnson — There’s great length. We’re just not real beefy,” Bean said.
So, they are working with what they have and adapting in preparation for coming up against more physical teams, he said.
“We take pride in our defense,” Bean said. In practice, the team has been working on refining that.
“We start every practice with a defensive drill,” he said. “Just emphasizing how important it is to play great defense and to box out the rebound.”
And on Saturday when they face Thompson Falls, the Loggers will get the chance to see how the work they have been doing pays off against someone else.
“You always look forward to that first one, because everybody out here’s on the same team vying for playing time and gettin after it,” Bean said.
Even scrimmaging against their teammates, the competition can get intense.
“Which is not a bad thing,” Bean said. “People are competitive and they’re getting after things and we’ve had some pretty good practices. But, it will be good to play against somebody else, and to get after somebody else, and just get out there and see what they can do.”
Bean said he expects the Northwest A to be challenging this season.
“It’s going to be a battle each night that we go out there,” he said.
With transfers coming into Browning and Columbia Falls and coaching changes at Whitefish, the Loggers could face a more competitive conference than they did last season, he said.
“I think because of our experience, we’re ahead a little bit of the game with what we have -- and with our ability to score,” Bean said.
The Loggers will face the Hawks at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Ralph Tate Memorial Gym at Libby High School.