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Boys basketball commentary: It takes a village of Cougars

Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 12:46 a.m. CDT
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Eastland's Marshall Fink goes up for a jump shot during the Cougars' 49-31 victory over Aquin during the 1A Eastland Sectional Championship on Friday in Lanark. Fink scored four points, but his work against teammates like Dalton Shaner the week leading up paid immeasurable dividends.

Skyler Barncord was ready to stick his nose back into the sea of humanity. He’s not one to shy away from a challenge, and was more than happy to dig out Skylar Paulson for me.

“No, I’m Barncord,” the 5-foot-2 junior guard said. “Paulson’s over here. I’ll get him for you.”

Only problem is, I didn’t want Paulson. Talking to the stat-sheet stuffers was Brian Weidman’s job Friday night. I wanted to talk to the “B” team that makes the “A” team capable of holding a team like Aquin to 31 points.

To do that takes fitness. It takes guts.

“I’ll just guard anybody,” Barncord said after I assured him he was the one I wanted to talk to. “I’ll just take the guts and guard anybody, as long as they can get better.”

It takes humility.

“Coach says it all the time: We have the best scout team in the area,” said point guard Dalton Shaner, who led Eastland with 15 points. “They push us. They give us good looks all week. And you know what? There’s some teams out there...”

He stops to laugh.

“… that would complain and not want to work hard, because they know they’re not going to get into games like this. They never hang their heads. It’s all them.”

Perhaps it takes some sour grapes, too. One year ago, the Cougars’ run was cut stunningly short when they lost to Forreston in the regional final.

Austin Hansen readily admitted that the Cougars weren’t in as good of shape last February. That’s why he appreciates it when coach/P.E. teacher Tony Dunlap makes them run the mile.

And Hansen also appreciates his usual sparring partner, Devin Hartman.

“He’s got such quick hands,” Hansen said. “He’ll be on offense, running their stuff. We get a steal, and you think you’ve got a layup, but he’s got the quickest hands. You get mad at him. You’re like, ‘What the heck, dude? Stop.’” He makes us look bad in practice. But he makes us better.”

Hartman says he loves every minute of it.

Doing a lot of the dirty work Friday night was Marshall Fink. He often draws the ugliest of assignments in practice: trying to keep Shaner at bay.

“He helps me get better, and I like to think I help him,” Fink said. “I might hack him a little bit. But it makes it tougher. That’s all that matters.”

You go down the line, asking each Cougar who is responsible for their staunch defense, and it’s like asking a bunch of Looney Tunes which way he went. They all point in a different direction.

The Cougars could also point to the zebras for an assist during Friday night’s whistle buffet. The officials took letting ‘em play to another level and, frankly, I loved every moment of it.

In turn, credit needs to be paid to the 18 players who made the box score. Play got chippy, but never with ill intent.

Thirty-two minutes of man-to-man defense? Refs staying out of the way? You had to know the best athletes would win.

Extra! Extra!

Two years ago, Eastland built a glorious new facility. Media-types love it. So do the players, who love getting in their reps in the state-of-the-art workout facility, as Christopher Heimerman dicusses at saukvalley.com/blogs/extra-extra.

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