Raiders ‘very motivated’ for deep playoff run

Herald File Photo
Colson Montgomery is back for his junior year at Southridge.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — Most basketball coaches would probably point their teams to the NBA for an example to follow, but Mark Rohrer isn’t most coaches. Instead, the Southridge boys basketball coach wants his team to look to the NFL to inspire them as they prepare to start the season against the Castle Knights on Saturday.

“You always hear about the New England Patriots and how they are able to morph from week to week to attack their opponents' weaknesses,” said Rohrer, who is beginning his second year coaching the Raiders. “That’s how we try to operate as well. We want to attack weakness on the defensive end and take away strengths of our opponents on the offensive end.”

A major theme the Raiders’ coaching staff wants to push is for their team to be the smartest unit on the floor during the season, which goes right in line with the famed Patriot Way. Rohrer points to on-the-court statistics like turnovers, free throw differential and strong play at the top and bottom of the quarters as indicators that the team is playing smart basketball. For him, though, the real test will be how the players coach and lead each other during the season. Rohrer wants the Raiders to become a more player-led team this season, and believes they’ll climb to even greater heights once they learn how to empower each other.

“In games, I want them to say the things that I’m saying in practice to each other,” Rohrer said. “Player-led teams are always more successful than coach-led teams. Just all being on the same page to where in games I’m seeing those guys lead each other.”

Rohrer believes Southridge’s success will start with their defense. Southridge averaged less than 46 points allowed per game last season. The Raiders aren't the tallest team around, but the players feel like they could use their speed and athleticism to play man-to-man defense. That would make it difficult for other teams to attack the basket, and force mistakes which the Raiders can feast on for easy buckets.

“We’re going to have to be quick and disrupt a lot of things on other people’s offenses,” said senior forward Garrett Voegerl. “I want our team to come in with a defensive mindset and show [our opponents], ‘You’re not going to score on me, you’re going to have to work for it.’”

“Coach Rohrer wants us to start pressuring people,” added junior guard Colson Montgomery. “Just get up into them, try to force a turnover.”

The offense may be a step behind the defense as the Raiders work to replace former players Joe LaGrange and Jaden Hayes, but they’ll have one of the best players on the court in Montgomery. The junior averaged 21.1 points last year and has been tweaking his game to become an even greater force this year.

“This year I’ll get face guarded a lot, I may get double-teamed sometimes,” Montgomery said as he shared the value in working on his passing skills. “I tell my teammates, 'You got to be ready,' because I’m going to dish it off to them. They’ll just get easy buckets or threes. I’ve been working on my vertical. I’m going to be playing above the rim a lot more.”

The Raiders also return Voegerl and junior guard Camden Gasser, both of whom saw significant minutes in the varsity lineup last season. Junior forward Sam Sermsheim and sophomore guard Carter Whitehead also saw some varsity time last year and have separated themselves from the rest of the team competing for starting spots. Rohrer said the offense this season will operate with a little more structure and deliberate pacing to start, but he thinks the players could become a free-flowing, fun-to-watch bunch as they grow and get comfortable with each other on the floor.

“We’ll have a lot of little sets and wrinkles to what we want to do offensively,” he said. “We’re going to have a little more discipline and understanding of what is and isn’t a good shot for us. We may grind out some more possessions than we did last year, because the biggest key for this group is to make sure we’re an efficient team.”

The Raiders want to build on their 19 wins from last year, the second-most regular season wins in school history, and their second-round sectional appearance. While they recognize last season as a successful one from a big-picture standpoint, the team still has ambitions of making a deep run in the postseason and bringing another sectional title to the program like they did two seasons ago.

“We’re going to be really successful,” said Voegerl, who has been working on his post game to become a more consistent threat in the paint. “We’re going to have some ups and downs, but if we work through those, I feel like we could be really good.”

“It’s a very motivated group,” Rohrer added. “We know the ultimate goal in March is to make a deep tournament run. I think the sting from last year’s sectional is going to be some fuel and motivation for this group.”




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