Changes coming for Thunder after holiday tournament

Sports Reporter

by Eric Oslund

Sports Reporter

The Zimmerman boys basketball team has been going through a lot of transition this season with the hiring of Nathan Christensen as their new head coach. It takes time to instill all the ins and outs of a new system and it has shown. There have been bright spots early in the season, but also some areas they still need to clean up.

The team took their 3-3 record into a holiday tournament at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School on Dec. 28 and 29. They ended up going 1-1, keeping their overall season record at .500 (4-4).

They squared off against Big Lake Wednesday night, and it was not the start to the tournament that the Thunder were looking for. They found themselves down 8-0 right away to start the game, and trailed by 12 at halftime. They were able to get the game within four to start the second half, but that was all the team was able to muster, as they ended up losing 58-81.

“Big Lake’s defense is very good, so it wasn’t easy to score in the first place,” Christensen said. “They were making us shoot some tough shots, but shots weren’t falling. We still weren’t getting the best shot selection, but hats off to Big Lake’s defense. A very good defensive team, so they were hard to beat.”

The Thunder could have very well rolled over and quit in their second game, against Detroit Lakes, but they didn’t. They were able to rebound after a tough loss the night before and come out on top with a 74-64 victory.

It’s always a good thing to see a team be able to bounce back so quickly form a loss, and it’s a reason why Christensen knows his players will be able to handle some of the changes the coaching staff is making. They are going to be putting some players in different positions and giving them different minutes, just to find the combinations that give them the best chances of winning.

But what may be the most important thing, as they comeback from the holiday break, they are going to begin to focus on improving their defense a lot more. They didn’t focus on it as much in the first couple weeks because they were still implementing their offense, but now that the boys seem to have a good grasp on that, the defense will become more of a priority.

“We changed our whole practice structure,” Christensen said. “Just kind of emphasized it big time. Half the game is defense, so 50 percent of our practices are defense now. That’s kind of been the focus the past couple weeks now since we’ve been giving up a lot of points. Need to focus on that a little bit. Just different types of drills to communicate and different scenarios. Really just pushing it in practice and changing the practice structure.”

Chandler Wellman has been a player that has really stood out for a majority of the season, but Dylan Martin and Thunder Heyer were really able to pick up their game in this recent tournament. Christensen is hoping they can keep that up for the remainder of the season, and the team can get into a bit of a groove in their upcoming games.

Up next, they will host Foley on Thursday, Jan. 5, and then Monticello on Friday, Jan. 6. It’s always difficult to prepare for back-to-back games, but Christensen is confident his players will be ready since they have three days of practice to prepare for them beforehand.