Despite the loss of the Western 14C Conference’s leading scorer from last year, Hot Springs boys basketball figures to be among the leaders again this year.
The Hot Springs girls face a similar problem, but also return a core of solid players, including one of the region’s best.
Gone to graduation on the boys side is Brandon Knudsen, an all-everything star from the 2019 squad. Knudsen averaged nearly 30 points a game last year and was a floor leader throughout the season for the Savage Heat. The Heat will also be without the services of Luke Waterbury, a graduated senior who was plagued by injury most of last season.
The Lady Savage Heat also lost a big-time player in McKenzie Cannon, also a graduated senior and an all-conference post who was a scoring and rebounding force.
The boys return a talented group this year, led by second-team all-conference wing Jack McAllister, a 5-11 junior. Joining McAllister are returning starters Lincoln Slonaker, a 5-8 senior guard, and Kyle Lawson, a 5-10 junior forward.
Coach Scott Fredrickson is also counting on increased playing time for 5-6 junior Benedict Waterbury and 6-2 sophomore Nathan Lawhead as the Savage Heat prepare for their season opener versus new 14C member Clark Fork.
And there is an intriguing, promising addition to the roster from overseas, 6-3 junior Mario Garcia, a foreign exchange student from Spain.
McAllister will likely assume the role of floor leader on this year’s team. He proved to be a steady scorer, tough defender and solid rebounder on last year’s team, which used a late season surge to nearly qualify for divisional play.
“We will be quick and physical,” Fredrickson said. “We expect to compete for a win in every game.”
The unknown going into the season, other than lingering Covid concerns, will be Garcia. The Spaniard, who played on the school’s six-man football team this fall despite having never seen an American football game, drew high praise from Knudsen.
“I came to the gym to play some hoops and Mario was there playing,” Knudsen said earlier this year. “He’s really quick and has some really good basketball moves.”
On the girls side, not much is known other than the Lady Savage Heat will return a very solid group of proven performers, led by all-conference first teamer Katelyn Christensen, a 5-9 junior forward with outstanding basketball skills and leaping ability.
Christensen is joined by returnees Lily Winn, a 5-9 junior forward, and Lizzy Fischer, a 5-11 senior post who gives the Lady Heat a solid inside presence.
There are also several young players looking for playing minutes this year.
Gone from last year’s team is Cannon, a senior center, who graduated last spring after helping lead the Lady Heat to a spot in the Western C Divisional playoff.
The girls’ team practices have been greatly curtailed so far this year due to Covid concerns. The squad is hoping to be ready to go by their scheduled opener.
Last year’s team finished second in district play and advanced to the divisional round in Frenchtown where they were 1-2.
Both boys and girls teams open play Thursday, Jan. 7, with home games against new conference member Clark Fork (Superior/Alberton co-op). Both teams then travel the following day, Friday, for a pair of games in St. Regis.