Boys Basketball Preview: Havasu feeling good about a new season in new division
Its safe to say the Lake Havasu boys basketball team is coming off a fairly successful season last year after finishing 18-11 and 3-7 in the Desert West region of the 5A conference.
The Knights started the season strong by plowing their way through the Colorado River schools but went stagnant when regional play pitted them against top-ranked teams like Avondale Agua Fria and 5A state championship runner-up Glendale Deer Valley.
Well, Havasu is in a new conference now after being bumped down to 4A and is now in the West Valley region with two new opponents in Peoria and Glendale Cactus. The Knights still have to face Deer Valley and Goodyear Desert Edge — who also moved down the 4A from the Desert West region — but it’s in regional play where coach Ted Darnell expects his team’s newfound focus in defense to prove themselves.
“We’re trying to stress defense this year,” Darnell said. “We installed a new defensive system. It’s different for the kids because before we played man-to-man defense but now we have a system that goes with our man-to-man defense.
“There’s rules, accountability and places that they need to be. We will still shine up our offense but I’m not worried about scoring points. Offense is easy, but defense is the part we really want to focus on. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do and I’m really excited about the kids we have this year. We just need to stay healthy.”
Havasu is returning four players from last years roster with seniors Will Prater, Cole Wade, Noah Boyd and junior Andrew Ortega. The rest of this years roster saw a lot of promotions from junior varsity with the addition of junior Bradley Rodgers who moved to Havasu from Battle Mountain, Nevada.
The relatively new looking roster this year has added some size for the Knights. While Havasu might not have the 3-point shooting snipers of Abraham Rodriguez and Ryan Hopp who graduated last year, the Knights still have some shooters but expect them to be using their size to drive to the basket more and score from the open floor.
“I think adding height with Trevor (Bradshaw), Pablo (Torres), Dale (Whitehouse) and even Will from last year, we got some strength and athleticism inside,” Wade said. “We can still shoot the ball, but Darnell has really been instilling defense in us. He wants a gritty, hard-nosed basketball team. If we play for one another that’s going to be a driving force to achieving our main goal, which is making it to the playoffs.”
The Knights started the season on Tuesday against Kingman Academy where they beat the Tigers 69-61 on the back of 24 points from Boyd and 10 points each from Wade and Ortega.
Havasu continues again on Monday with its first home game of the season when they host River Valley at 7 p.m. From there, the Knights will mostly play the Colorado River schools except for at Peoria on Dec. 7 which would officially start West Valley regional play for Havasu. The bulk of regional play does not start until Jan. 10 when the Knights host Cactus at 7 p.m.
Havasu doesn’t know much about its new West Valley opponents except for how they did last year. Peoria finished second in the West Valley region at 18-10 overall and 7-3 in regional play. Cactus finished fourth in the region at 6-15 overall and 5-5 in West Valley play.
The Knights know where they stand for the most part with Deer Valley and Desert Edge as both teams should be expected to be returning a majority of their players. Last year, Deer Valley swept Havasu in two games and the Knights split the series with Desert Edge.
Regional play is going to decide the fate of the Knights playoff hopes this year and while Havasu knows the opponents will be tough, it does not want to go into games thinking about that.
“We should have a better mindset going into games,” Ortega said. “We need to believe in ourselves and have confidence. We know what we can and should do at certain moments. Just because we play a good team that’s won a lot of games, we need to know we can do what we are supposed to do for the W.”
Above all else, the Knights are excited to get the season going. Havasu has a positive outlook on how the season will play out and they should considering they have a fresh roster that seems to be gelling on the court.
“We are feeling good and we have a good team coming into this year,” Boyd said. “We feel like we are going to do good things this year. We’ve all been playing together since middle school. With Brad joining the team and all the guys from JV it’s all fitting perfectly.”