FAIRMONT - What this season's Fairmont Cardinal boys basketball team lacks in size, it makes up for with speed and experience.
The Cardinals will need both if they hope to avenge a Section 3AA, South Sub-Section loss to Worthington in last year's playoffs.
"We are returning seven guys who played 150 minutes or more last season. In the three years that I've been here, this is the most experienced team we've had," said Fairmont head coach Jared Thompson.
SET FOR TIPOFF?— Members of the Fairmont Cardinal boys basketball team tipping off the season at Windom on Saturday night include, front row (l-r): Mitch Pfingsten, Taylor Beebe, Ryan Noll and Luke Becker. Middle: Jay Ruen, Riley Schwieger, Luke Hested, Levi Becker, Justin Barnes and Nick Roggow. Back: Assistant coach Andy Traetow, Spencer Chirpich, Bryce Holm, Luke Peterson, Josh Eversman, Zach Brown, Tadd Abel and head coach Jared Thompson. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
The Cardinals lost just two players from their roster that generated a 22-6 record, including sharing a piece of the South Central Conference championship with St. Peter.
"We lost some of our height this year, so we aren't very big. Without that size in the middle, we are looking to really control the tempo of the games and dictate how we want to play," said Thompson.
Junior guard Mitch Pfingsten, who's led the team in scoring the last two seasons, including a 17.6 points per game average a year ago, returns to lead the Cardinals.
The 6-foot-1 Pfingsten knocked down 65 3-pointers at a 39.9 percent clip, while the two-time all-SCC and All-Area selection also averaged 4.2 rebounds and and made 32 steals.
Along with the pertinacious Pfingsten, the Cardinals also have five seniors who will contribute major minutes to the game.
"I think this year our strength is going to be shooting and depth. We have had some really competitive practices and we have a lot of experienced guys back," said Thompson.
Senior Levi Becker will look for a large role in the Cardinals' scheme this season after averaging 3.2 rebounds and nine points per game via 45.5 percent shooting.
The 6-1 Becker, who was an all-SCC honorable mention choice last year, also made 19 steals and shot 31.8 percent from behind the arc.
Seniors Bryce Holm, Lukas Hested, Ryan Noll and Justin Barnes all will look to have big roles for Fairmont. Hested averaged five points, Noll averaged 3.3, Holm netted three and Barnes 2.9 per game last season.
Without a height advantage, Fairmont will rely on the 6-3 Barnes and Holm, along with the 6-2 Hested and 6-0 Noll, to hold down the inside.
Jay Ruen, a 6-2 junior, will provide another facet to the offense with his 7.8-point scoring clip from last year and team-leading 45.5 percentage behind the arc.
Junior Luke Becker will see playing time, along with junior Josh Everman and junior Nick Roggow.
"Fairmont has always played an up-tempo game, but this season we are looking to run even more than we have before," said Thompson. "We want to make sure that every game we are dictating the tempo."
The Cardinals open the season at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night at Windom before traveling to Worthington on Dec. 4. Marshall and United South Central will end the opening road trip with games on Dec. 8 and Dec. 11, respectively.
Fairmont then plays host to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial on Dec. 15 in its home opener.
"We have a tough schedule our first few weeks. All of the teams we face will be good challenges for us and should push us to compete," said Thompson.