Rangers boys basketball look to have good season

By Jeff Smith

Senior Chance Simmons goes up for the lay-up on the Dec. 8 Varsity game against Belle Fourche.

Hill City hosted Belle Fourche on Friday, December 8. They won 64-29. It didn’t take them long to receive the lead and they kept it the whole game. They were able to drive inside the lane well and were aggressive. They also kept rebounding on offense and defense.

The Rangers have 16 boys out for basketball this season. Head coach Blake Gardner said that every year there seems to be 15-18 that are on one of the teams.

Gardner is in his twelfth season and the assistant coach is Nathan Bayne who is in his third season.

Gardner has had the most wins in Hill City boys basketball history with 87.

“I absolutely love coaching and interacting with the kids,” Gardner said.

Coaching was even the reason why he got into the education field. He was once coaching basketball, track and football but is glad to just be coaching basketball now because it is his true love. He’s happy to still be doing it.

“I’m really blessed because other schools don’t allow administrators to coach,” Gardner said, who is also the middle school principal.

He is thankful that the Board of Education allows administrators to coach.

Five seniors returned to the squad that finished with 10 wins last season.  Seniors Chance Simmons (11.3 ppg – honorable mention all-conference last year), Jacob Harris (6.4 ppg – led team in assists last year), and Jac Cutler ( 5.5 ppg and drew 13 charges last season) have started the past three seasons for the Rangers.  Noe Escalante (7 ppg on JV) and Michael Satter (5 ppg on JV) played significant varsity minutes last season.

Juniors Noah Krull (9 ppg/6 rpg- Honorable Mention all-conference last year) and Taylor Edwards (5.4 ppg last year) will contribute to the varsity squad again.  Others who will be asked to step into bigger roles this year are junior Dawson Clemetson (5’11) and sophomore Robert Aquino (5’10).

New players to the Ranger program are sophomore Logan Raderschadt (6’2), sophomore Javier Meza (6’0), freshman Arek Hladys (5’7), freshman Austin Groven (5’6), freshman Alan Salinas (5’7), Freshman Alberto Meza (5’7) and foreign exchange student Andreu Perera.

For the past 12 years Gardner said that it’s been fun to watch the seniors grow and develop. He remembers them in elementary school and being on traveling teams later on. He has watched them grow and develop their skills.

“During their freshman and sophomore years they were thrown into the fire with varsity and played a lot of minutes,” Gardner said.

Being challenged gave them a lot of valuable experience and Gardner is optimistic for the rest of the year.

“With schools twice as big as us we have been competitive,” Gardner said.

Teams in their conference like St. Thomas More, Red Cloud, Douglas and Sturgis are teams that are as competitive as any teams across the state, according to Gardner. Gardner uses those match-ups to assess how his team is doing. 

Gardner thinks that his team and Custer as well as Hot Springs can compete with big schools but they might just be a small step below.

This varsity  team might be a historic one as Gardner thinks they are more skilled than any team in the past 12 years. One of things that is different and makes the season tough is the schedule. Gardner believes they have a schedule that is more challenging than years past.

The next home game is Nov. 16. The varsity boys game starts around 6:30 p.m.