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Boys basketball: Young roster leads Mahnomen-Waubun into 2022-23 season

Mahnomen-Waubun boys basketball head coach John Clark Jr. is excited to see his young roster test themselves against a competitive Section 8A and Pine to Prairie Conference slate.

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The Mahnomen-Waubun boys basketball team scrimmaged against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Nov. 29, 2022 at DGF High School.
Nick Leonardelli / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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MAHNOMEN – The Mahnomen-Waubun boys basketball team is no stranger to making a deep run in the postseason. However, after a second-round loss in the Section 8A tournament a year ago, the Thunderbirds hope to take things a step further with a young team.

Head football and basketball coach John Clark Jr. is entering his 20th season at the helm of Mahnomen-Waubun hoops. After a state Class A football quarterfinal loss to Deer River, he's hoping his guys get back on the horse with a more challenging road ahead against a tough hops slate.

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Mahnomen-Waubun's John Clark Jr. smiles during the Thunderbirds' scrimmage against Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on Nov. 29, 2022 at DGF High School.
Nick Leonardelli / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It's always exciting heading into a new season to see how much your team can improve and progress throughout the year," Clark said. "We have a very inexperienced team coming back. I expect there to be some rough patches early, but hopefully, we will see that progress and improvement as the year goes on. I know we have some kids that love to play basketball, so we should see some improvement, and I'm excited to see that."

Last season, the Thunderbirds finished with an overall record of 19-9, a section record of 10-4 and a Pine to Prairie Conference record of 12-1 for a first-place finish in the South Division. With a younger-than-usual team, Clark is tempering his expectations.

"Well, I think as inexperienced as we are, we have to have realistic expectations," Clark said. "(The goal is) just to compete every night and make sure we are giving an honest effort to make teams respect us. I don't know what our record will be, but I hope at the end of the year we are, what you call, a 'tough out,' where teams know they are going to be in for a battle when they play us at the end of the year."

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The 2021-22 season ended earlier than the Thunderbirds imagined after a 57-47 loss in the second round of sections to Fertile-Beltrami. That defeat was their earliest playoff exit since the Mahnomen-Waubun merger. Clark needs to see many things from this team if they want to make a deep playoff run like the Mahnomen-Waubun teams of old.

"There are lots of things," he said. "We caught a cold shooting night against a good team last season. It's a shot-maker's game. You have to be able to put the ball into the basket. That's something we are going to work hard on, which is improving our shooting percentage. Along with that comes taking better shots and making shots. Defensively, we are going to be a work in progress. You have to play good individual and team defense. That is something that we are going to work on."

Clark understands the limitations of a younger team, but he knows his team best and sees the passion the kids have for the game of basketball. He sees their dedication as a strength heading into the season.

"We have desire and passion for the game," Clark said. "The kids love the game, which is a plus. You have to kick them out of the gym, which is a good sign."

Clark also knows his team has weaknesses. He sees his team playing too much "open gym-style" basketball and wants to see his team play more structured.

"A deficiency would be that we have some bad habits," Clark said. "What we are going to have to work on is getting that structure and being disciplined on defense and offense."

That kind of discipline will begin with the two returning varsity starters. Dennis Ashley and Tyson McArthur will be looked on to help lead the young team through the long season.

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The Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton boys basketball team scrimmaged Mahnomen-Waubun at DGF High School on Nov. 29, 2022 ahead of the 2022-23 season.
Nick Leonardelli / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"They are about the only ones with varsity experience," Clark said. "We are definitely going to rely on them. "They will have to keep us afloat, to be honest, and lead in a positive way, and I expect them to do that. They showed, in football, that they have grown up and become great leaders. I am expecting more of the same this basketball season."

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A lot of games will be played over the next few months of the season, and Clark sees no game more important than the next. He considers each game to be a chance to get better and a chance to learn something about themselves.

"This is a young team, so It's going to be on a game-by-game basis," Clark said. "I'm looking forward to each and every one of them. I want them to work extremely hard and get better every week. I know it sounds simple, but that's all we can do right now."

MAHNOMEN-WAUBUN BOYS BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

Dec. 5 vs NCE-UH, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 10 vs New York Mills, 12:00 p.m.

Dec. 12 vs Fosston, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 16 vs Ada-Borup-West 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 20 vs Badger- Greenbush- Middle River, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 22 at Cass Lake-Bena, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 3 at Lake Park-Audubon, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 5 vs Park Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 9 at Fertile-Beltrami, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 12 at NCE-UH, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 16 at Red Lake, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 17 at Win-E-Mac, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 19 at Sacred Heart, TBD

Jan. 23 at Bagley, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 26 vs Ada-Borup-West, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 30 at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 31 vs Lake Park-Audubon, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 2 vs Climax-Fisher, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 6 at Park Christian, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 7 vs Red Lake County, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 11 vs Pelican Rapids, 3:00 p.m.

Feb. 16 vs Clearbrook-Gonvick, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 21 vs Thief River Falls, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 23 at Nevis, 7:30 p.m.

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