PREP BASKETBALL: After solid run through non-league play, Bruins gear up for PVL slate | TheUnion.com

PREP BASKETBALL: After solid run through non-league play, Bruins gear up for PVL slate

Despite a young roster, late arriving players and a new coach, the Bear River boys basketball team has risen above the early season adversity and clawed its way to a winning record in non-league play.

"We have pretty good athletes, and I like that our kids can get up and down the court and really get after it defensively," Bear River head coach Jeff Bickmore said. "I've been really proud of what we've been able to do defensively."

Bickmore, a longtime girls basketball coach at Bear River, took over the boys team this season and has led the Bruins to a Ganskie Invitational Tournament Championship and a winning record against non-league foes.

The Bruins are at their best when they excel on the defensive side of the court and limit turnovers on the offensive end, said Bickmore.

Through the first 15 games of the season, the Bruins have been balanced in their offensive attack, getting strong play from sophomore point guard Brekyn Vasquez, sophomore small forward Brad Smith, senior guard Clay Corippo, junior forward Garrett Pratt and junior small forward Calder Kunde. They also have talented players in sophomore sharp-shooter Justin Powell, junior post player Noah Skowronski and senior guard Kaden Ahlberg.

Sitting at 8-7 overall the Bruins have already won more games than they did a season ago, and are looking for more as they enter Pioneer Valley League play, which tips off at 7 p.m. tonight when Bear River hosts Placer.

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Bickmore knows wins in league play will be tougher to come by.

"There are no easy (league) games," Bickmore said. "Everyone comes at you at 100 miles per hour.

"For our young team, it's going to be tough. We're going to have to rise to that level of play. It's not going to be easy, but that's the challenge we face if we're going to win in the Pioneer Valley League."

UP FOR GRABS

There is a trove of talented teams in the PVL this season and a byproduct of that is there isn't a clear front runner to win the league.

"They are all well coached, they all play really hard and they all compete every night," Bickmore said of the teams in the PVL. "There are a lot of teams that could win it."

Last year's PVL champ Placer (12-5) lost some firepower from a season ago, but still have talented guard Kai Huntsberry and have proven they are a force to be reckoned with once again. The Hillmen are averaging 70.1 points per game this season, while allowing just 54.1 per game.

The Lincoln Zebras (14-3) are a title contender this season and enter league play on an eight-game winning streak. The Zebras are led by senior guard Preston Summerhays.

Colfax (11-5) enters league play on a four-game winning streak and boasting one of the league's top players. Senior forward Garren O'Keefe, an All-PVL selection the past two seasons, leads the way for the Falcons, averaging 20.7 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game. Colfax also has strong players in Mason Ahrens and Nate Sawi.

Center (7-9) is one of only two PVL teams with losing records in non-league play, but no one is counting them out. The Cougars are led by T.J. Caldwell, a senior guard averaging 15 points per game, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. They also have a strong presence in the paint with 6-foot, 4-inch Elias Bonds.

Foothill (4-13) is off to a rocky start to the 2017-18 season. But with several transfers becoming eligible just in time for league play, the Mustangs too will be a contender. Foothill boasts strong players in guard Tyrel Morris (17.5 points per game), 6-foot, 4-inch Adrian Loggins (15.7 points per game) and 6-foot, 5-inch T.J. Pesefea (10.5 points per game).

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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