As one might expect of a first-year program, the Saxony Lutheran High School basketball team finished with a lopsided record.
That first year can be a killer, getting your feet wet while facing established programs. Not to mention playing boys competition with two of your nine players female, including one starter.
So how ugly was the record?
Very -- for Saxony opponents.
Making its debut with a junior varsity team, Saxony finished its inaugural season last week with a 45-34 victory over Marquand's JV.
Saxony's final tote board read: 19 wins, 4 losses.
Sure, Saxony played 13 freshmen teams, but its own starting lineup featured four freshmen and one sophomore. Saxony went 11-2 against freshmen teams, including triumphs over Central, Notre Dame, Perryville and Lutheran North.
Saxony went 8-2 against JV teams and 6-0 against the JV teams of Class 1 schools, which they'll compete against next year on the varsity level.
Count Saxony coach John Daniel among the surprised.
"I thought we might be average," Daniel said. "I was surprised we ended up doing so well. I attribute it to our defense and how committed our kids were."
Not that there wasn't an adjustment period. Saxony did stand 4-3 after its first seven games. It then rolled off 12 straight wins before losing in overtime to Portageville. It proved to be the final loss as Saxony closed out with five straight wins.
An assistant to Southeast Missouri State University coach Gary Garner just last year, Daniel applied his college lessons to a younger audience. He was most pleased with a defense that yielded just 31 points in its wins. His team also shot twice as many free throws as opponents.
"Coach Garner gets all over kids when they foul in practice, and that certainly had an impact on me," Daniel said. "That's something we really stress, and it certainly paid off."
Freshman center Tim Lorenz led Saxony with 12 points and nine rebounds a game. Freshman Trey Maevers directed the offense, dishing out six assists per game, and freshman Casey Petzoldt and sophomore John Volkerding each averaged eight points.
With 10 points a game, freshman Lauren Lueders was the team's second-leading scorer. She averaged six assists per game, was an 81-percent free throw shooter and shot 41 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
"I told Lauren from the start, if we had to think of her being a girl, there'd be a problem," Daniel said. "We went through the whole season not thinking of her as a boy or a girl. Opponents might have, but we didn't."
The group will move to the varsity level next year, competing in the Mississippi Valley Conference and will likely be assigned to Class 1, District 2, the home of defending Class 1 state champion Bell City, Oran, Scott County Central and others.
"We may be going varsity one year early, but we had the chance to join the Mississippi Valley Conference, and I thought we should go ahead and do it," Daniel said. "We may be in over our heads, but maybe we'll sneak up and win a game or two."
After its showing this year, sneaking up might be the biggest challenge.
Saxony Lutheran volleyball could be next
Daniel more than dropped hints that Saxony's sports repertoire will expand soon.
"It's highly likely we'll have volleyball next fall," Daniel said.
The school will probably start as it did with basketball, fielding a JV team its first year.
Bell City grows by six; Cubs grow by one
Coach David Heeb can already hear the talk.
Bell City's population recently grew by six, which includes junior Tyler Victor, a 6-foot-4 student-athlete.
Victor, his parents and two sisters, accompanied by an exchange student from Poland, moved from Wright City, Mo., where Victor played basketball for the Class 3 school.
Victor, who averaged 6.2 points and 4.9 rebounds -- second on the team -- for the 14-7 Wildcats, has been practicing with the defending Class 1 state champion Cubs and will soon be eligible for games.
"He does go to school and is eligible to play," Heeb said. "Whether or not he'll play ... you know, we're pretty good. It's not like the kid is great."
The Cubs have followed up last year's 29-5 season with a 19-5 campaign.
Heeb, who encountered accusations of recruiting last season when Dominitrix Johnson and C.J. Hadley moved into the district, said the transfer has been approved by the state. He said he was more concerned than anyone that the transfer was legitimate and proper channels followed.
"We're favored to get back to Columbia, and I don't want to jeopardize what the other 10 kids put in just to play one kid," Heeb said.
He added, "We're glad he's here. He's a nice kid and a straight-A student. He adds a lot to this school, not just the basketball team."
Charleston, PB's game of the year is Friday
The two titans of Southeast Missouri boys basketball will finally collide Friday night.
In the most anticipated game of the season, Poplar Bluff will visit Charleston in a showdown for the SEMO Conference title. The teams, both 7-0 in conference games, have been ranked first and second all season in the Southeast Missouri poll, with Poplar Bluff occupying the top spot.
The squads also carry statewide credentials: Poplar Bluff (22-2) is ranked No. 2 in Class 5; Charleston (21-3) is ranked No. 5 in Class 3.
It should be quite a pairing with the Mules' top twosome of 6-8 Tyler Hansbrough and guard Tony Webb going up against the Bluejays' duo of 6-8 Kewain Gant and 6-6 Danny Farmer.
Central's Edge signs to play at John A. Logan
Central senior Courtney Edge has accepted a scholarship to play volleyball at John A. Logan College, a two-year school in Carterville, Ill.
Edge is a two-year letterman in both volleyball and basketball. She has also lettered three years in track. She has also been selected "Who's Who" among high school students in 2003 and is a member of the National Honor Society.
John A. Logan, the Great Rivers Athletic Conference and Region 24 champion, placed seventh in the NJCAA national tournament in 2002, finishing the season with a 40-13 record.