FAIRFIELD — The previous two seasons have been full of some growing pains for the young Sandy Creek boys basketball squads. The Cougars have combined for six wins the last two years, but with five returning starters, including a pair of seniors, Sandy Creek head coach Matt Swartzendruber believes the team’s hard work is about to pay off.

“After many years of ‘growing up’ we finally have upperclassmen, which will make practices much more competitive and should improve our competitiveness on game nights as well,” said Swartzendruber. “We return all five starters and three of our top four kids off the bench. For once, depth will not be a problem.”

One of the five returning starters is senior Wyatt Mach, who was third in Tribland in scoring with 18.8 points per game. The 6-foot, 1-inch guard also pulled down 5.4 rebounds per contest. The other senior returning to the starting lineup is Connor Crumbliss, a 5-10 guard that tallied 2.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Also coming back as a starter is junior Kiefer Anderson (6-3, forward), Micah Biltoft (6-4, forward), and Josh Shaw (6-2, center). Shaw hauled in a team-best 7.2 rebounds last season while also added 6.7 points per game. Anderson was the third-leading scorer at a 6.4 clip and added three boards per game, and Biltoft had 4.3 points per contest.

Swartzendruber believes Mach is one of the top players in the area, and he thinks Shaw and Biltoft are poised for breakout seasons.

The Cougars feel they have solid depth, as John Mueller, a 6-3 forward, and Ethan Sherbeck, a 6-2 forward, both expect to contribute off the bench as seniors. Junior Jason Brockman (5-7, guard) and sophomores Hayden Shuck (5-10, guard) and 6-6 center Sam VonSpreckelsenalso hope to contribute to what the team believes could be a special season.

“We have one goal: to get better each and every day and compete each and every and see where that puts us in February. We will be much more competitive and our program culture changed a lot over the end of last season and the offseason.”

Sandy Creek will play in the competitive Class C-2, Subdistrict 9 tournament at the end of the season, going up against Doniphan-Trumbull, St. Cecilia, Superior and Sutton. Swartzendruber said Sutton will be the team to beat in the subdistrict.

The Cougars open the season with back-to-back home games, taking on Wood River on Thursday and David City on Saturday.

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