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Boys basketball preview: Benson Braves look to be young but talented

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BENSON — Benson returns four starters from last season and they’ll be tasked with replacing one of the area’s top scorers.

Coming off a 6-21 campaign, including a 2-12 mark in the West Central Conference, the Braves boast a young roster hungry for success.

Benson junior Blake Brehmer, 12, sets up for a 3-pointer in the corner during a West Central Conference game against BOLD on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 at Benson.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“We will be an extremely young varsity basketball team this year with a lot of potential,” said third-year head coach Michael Felt. “We will look to our seniors, Blake Brehmer and Joey Pagel, for a lot of leadership on and off the court. As a young team, we have good height combined with athleticism and the ability to shoot from the outside.

“This year we look to make a step in the right direction as a basketball program.”

Benson freshman Tayte Antolick, 4, passes the ball to teammate Landon Skarsten, 2, during a West Central Conference game against BOLD on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 at Benson.

Benson freshman Tayte Antolick, 4, passes the ball to teammate Landon Skarsten, 2, during a West Central Conference game against BOLD on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 at Benson.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Gone is Juan Espinoza, who averaged 22.6 points per game last season. The All-West Central Conference pick is now playing collegiately at Ridgewater College in Willmar.

Benson will rely on a bevy of players to match that production.

Brehmer will run the offense at point guard. He averaged 9.0 points and a team-high 4.2 assists per game last season.

Benson eighth-grader Lanadreon Goodwin protects the ball after getting the rebound during a Section 6A-South play-in game against Ortonville on Monday, March 6, 2023 at Benson.

Benson eighth-grader Lanadreon Goodwin protects the ball after getting the rebound during a Section 6A-South play-in game against Ortonville on Monday, March 6, 2023 at Benson.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“Blake will look to lead our team this year as the player with the most experience coming in,” Felt said. “Blake will bring leadership, ball handling and aggressive defense to this young team.”

Pagel is a 6-foot-4 forward/center who Felt hopes will add toughness in the post.

Sophomore guard Landon Skarsten is another returning starter and the top returning scorer with 9.1 points per game.

The Braves have two other sophomore starters returning in forward/center Harold Habben and guard Tayte Antolick.

Junior guard Jaden McCarter has the potential to be the Braves’ best defender, according to Felt. Then there are a pair of freshmen — 5-7 guard Graidy Zimmerman and 6-5 forward Lanadreon Goodwin — who are expected to make a big impact.

“Graidy is a player we are very excited about,” Felt said. “He was looking at some varsity time as an eighth-grader last year before an injury ended his season. Graidy plays aggressive and can knock down shots.

“(Goodwin) is a player with unlimited potential. He can rebound, score and block shots as good as anyone and we are hoping he can be a great basketball player for us.”

(All games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Dec. 5 — vs. Yellow Medicine East

Dec. 8 — at Montevideo, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 14 — at Ashby, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 19 — at ACGC

Dec. 21 — vs. Ortonville

Jan. 2 — at BOLD

Jan. 4 — at Renville County West, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 9 — vs. West Central Area, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 12 — vs. Melrose

Jan. 15 — at Morris/Chokio-Alberta

Jan. 16 — vs. LQPV

Jan. 18 — at Minnewaska

Jan. 19 — at Border West, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 23 — vs. Sauk Centre, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 29 — vs. BOLD

Feb. 1 — vs. Montevideo

Feb. 2 — at Swanville, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 6 — vs. Minnewaska

Feb. 8 — at Sauk Centre

Feb. 12 — vs. Community Christian School, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 13 — at Melrose

Feb. 16 — vs. Morris/Chokio-Alberta

Feb. 20 — at West Central Area, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 23 — at Brandon-Evansville

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