The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Trojans open play Saturday at home


November 29, 2017

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The Whitehall High School basketball will face a stern test when they open their 2017-18 season Saturday at home against Manhattan Christian.

Both teams were no strangers to success last season with the Trojans finishing fourth at the Class B State Tournament, and the Eagles getting to the Class C State Title game.

"Top teams in Class C and Class B are pretty comparable year in and out. Manhattan Christian has been a power in the Western C Division for some time now and are coming off one of there best years ever. They lost in the state championship last year and bring back some great weapons from that team. It should be a tough test and we look forward to the test," Whitehall Head Coach Zach McLean said.

The longtime Trojans coach is pleased with the turnout for this year's team, and noted the team has slowly been working their way into basketball shape.

"I like the intensity and focus we have in practice. I like how our older guys are being more vocal and helping our younger guys in drills," he said.

Whitehall will return three starters and several other key players from last year, however McLean said like every year this is a new season with a new team.

"I think we have developed a nice culture in our program and guys understand the expectations. This group has brought a lot of energy to practice. Some of these guys have spent some quality time in the gym in the summer and it will show this season," he said.

Senior Wyatt Alexander, and juniors Cade Briggs and Max Feight are all returning starters. Seniors Braden Smith and Ryan Murphy also had huge roles last season.

"Its huge having those guys coming back. They will need to step into new and expanded rolls this year," McLean said.

After starting his first two years with the program, McLean said Feight will draw everyone's attention defensively, and he worked hard finding different ways to score, besides being just a catch and shoot type of player.

McLean said Briggs is healthy this season and had a heck of a summer. He added Briggs is the point guard and one of the Trojans better players.

McLean said Alexander will need to be more assertive in 2017-18 and will be relied on heavily.

"He has really taken a jump with his skills over the summer," McLean said.

After coming of the bench last season, McLean said Smith will have a more significant roll and brings needed size and strength, adding he will be a force on the glass for the Trojans.

McLean said Murphy brings a great attitude and some grit to the team.

"He just has a knack for the ball coming off the rim," he said.

McLean said having junior Sawyer Keener coming out for the team this season is great for the Trojans.

"He brings a different edge of toughness to this team. Someone you will never have to question for his effort. He will lay it all out on the line for the TEAM," he said.

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McLean also highlighted senior Justin Gipson who he said had a nice summer.

"He's a smooth lefty with some length and does a nice job finishing," he said.

Looking towards the season, McLean sees one of the team's strengths as their toughness.

"Loose balls diving on the floor, stepping in to take charges -- plays like that have to be our staple. Another strength that we have is we have a group of guys that drive the ball hard, but also have the shooters to space the floor. We have some guys that can create some mismatches inside and we will look to take advantage of those. It's a long season and we want to be playing our best basketball around tournament time," he said.


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