It's easy to see why there’s a bit of excitement and can even see the smile through the mask of Coach Matt Johannsen when he speaks about his current group of Fossil Ridge Sabercats, who have four senior starters and one junior who is off to an extremely hot start in our condensed basketball season.
Wednesday night was a special assignment for our Ball Fever column — Fossil Ridge vs. Fort Collins — and we were anxious to see what the “feel” was like in a rivalry game between a ton of young men who know each other well on both sides of the court.
Fort Collins came into the crosstown rivalry boasting six seniors of their own for Coach Curtis Glesmann and 1-1 in the early season.
As expected, with so many young men familiar with one another this game was a “feeling out” session early and we were tied at 17 early second quarter.
“I felt that we needed an energy boost and switched to the full court pressure”, said Coach Johannsen, and that decision turned into a 11-0 run for the Sabercats, who were stealing momentum 28-17 midway through the second quarter.
The Lambkins answered with back-to-back 3-point shots from seniors Dante Smith, who finished with team high 13 points, and Jackson Bigge, who finished the night with 10 points of his own.
The Sabercats took a 33-28 lead into the half after Smith and Bigge answered the run and an energized Fossil Ridge crew took over the second half dominating early and using their depth to wear down the Lambkins a bit.
A big part of that second half was 6-foot-4 senior Oklahoma Baptist commit Tyce Baldwin, who was quiet in the first half with three points, but got aggressive in the second half attacking the rim. He got in the paint and finished with 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals.
Fellow senior big man Braiden Dishman was getting it done inside as well with 12 points, and 6 rebounds.
Coach Johannsen also has a “run-through-a-wall” floor general in Luke Yoder, along with tough Owen Commesser who seem to us as “glue guy” seniors willing to do all the little things for team success.
“Commitment” was the word Coach Johannsen used when describing this special group of seniors and the entire team who have pivoted during these pandemic times and keeping their circle small — on and off the court — in order to make this season a reality.
Senior leader Tyce Baldwin spoke highly of his team and fellow seniors: “Many of us have played together since fifth grade and we’re just excited to have the opportunity to play.”
Baldwin was able to commit to Oklahoma Baptist prior to the season starting, knowing it is the right athletic and academic fit for him, and takes all the pressure off the senior season he can now enjoy with his crew.
Speaking of that senior crew, there’s also a pretty special junior in the Sabercat starting line up in 6-foot-2 guard Brock Mishak. First opportunity seeing this young man play tonight and his 19 points (9-10 free throws), 8 rebounds, 4 assist, and 2 steals were “stat-stuffin” pacing the Sabercats to this 70-54 win over rival Fort Collins.
When our CHSAANow.com preseason rankings were released, I quickly noticed that Fossil Ridge received 40 votes but were left just outside of the top 15. Something told us right away that would change quickly and Coach Johannsen would soon have this crew earning attention.
They are now 3-0 in the condensed season, No. 14 in our poll and they have the depth, senior leadership, and athleticism to make some serious 5A noise before things are said and done in this unprecedented season!