By PATRICK SLACK
The Upsala boys basketball team didn’t have any returning starters at the beginning of last winter, yet went on to go 19-9.
This year, the Cardinals bring back their entire starting five, in addition to an experienced bench, with the hopes of challenging for its second Prairie Conference crown and Section 5A championship in three years.
Standing in the way are the two teams that finished ahead of Upsala a year ago, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and Browerville.
“As it is every year, we fully expect both the Prairie Conference as well as Section 5A to be extremely competitive,” Upsala head coach Vern Capelle said. “Conference champion Long Prairie-Grey Eagle and Section 5A champion Browerville are two great basketball teams and there is always excellent competition in the conference. It will be an extremely exciting year.”
Junior guard Christian Pekarek led Upsala in scoring a year ago with 14.4 points per game, with fellow returning starters, seniors Eric Frieler, Nick Frieler, Avery Smieja and Garrett Wolf all averaging at least 7.4 points per game.
Seniors Matt Abeler and Andy Nelson and juniors Dylan Zimmerman and Nathan Ehrenberg look to continue to see significant minutes in reserve.
Thomas Ripplinger was the lone graduate from last year’s team.
“Returning 90 percent of our varsity squad from last year, we are looking to pick up right where we left off at the end of last season,” Capelle said. “We have an experienced group of players and expect to be competitive throughout the entire season.”
Upsala opens the season with a home game against St. John’s Prep, Dec. 4.