MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - The Mankato West boys’ basketball team are Section 2AAA champions for the first time, in over a decade.
“Man. I’d say we were very emotional just as a team. Everything we’ve been through these past couple of years, starting off when we were in a younger group, we struggled to win games and we just struggled with our identity, but after winning the section championship it was just a lot of happy emotions and it just felt like we had achieved the goal we had been working towards all season,” senior guard Mason Ellwein said.
“It was a long time coming. After having two losing seasons. It felt good. It felt like we deserve to be here,” junior guard Buom Jock added.
At 16-4 heading into the state tournament, the Scarlets have more wins than the past two seasons combined.
“We really have matured in a way. Everybody’s played their part and we’ve all just played together, worked together. In these three years, we’ve played more as a family this year,” Jock said.
The product on the court as a result of West’s established team chemistry is sound defense and an explosive offense.
The group started the season with convincing wins over Faribault and Owatonna. After, the team fell short to Austin.
How they responded was indicative of how the rest of the season would go.
“The game we lost to Austin, we knew that we were better than what we played. So, after that game I feel like we all stepped up to another level,” senior forward Mekhi Collins said.
“There was a lot of teams in the conference that we hadn’t beaten yet. So, wins over Mayo, John Marshall, East, that just continued to build the guys’ confidence as the year went on,” Scarlets boys’ basketball head coach Jeremy Drexler said.
The focus has shifted to bringing a state championship to Mankato.
West is the second seed in the Class AAA south quarterfinals where they will take on Richfield at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Chanhassen.
“We haven’t played any city teams this year. It’s definitely going to be a different environment and a different type of style of play and I feel like the way we play together and the way we play defense, we can compete with any of those teams,” Jock said.
“These next two days here we’re going to keep working on the basics. You can hear them in the background a little bit, we preach talking on defense and how important that is,” Drexler added.
“We’ve made it this far. Might as well keep going. Get to that state championship. Win that state championship,” said Collins.
“This is obviously the last ride. Whatever happens, happens. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got though,” Ellwein said.