New Salem boys look for another 20-win season

Monday, November 22, 2004

New Salem Baptist Academy boys basketball coach Ken Jones thinks his team may have a hard time extending the school's string of 20-win seasons.

But he also thinks New Salem may be able to erase the heartache from last year's semifinal loss in the Missouri Christian Schools Activities Association Class 2A state tournament.

"We have won 20 games each of the last three years," Jones said, "and we're going to have trouble reaching 20 wins because of the tough schedule and inexperience. I think we should be above .500, and we could do better at state because of our tough schedule. Playing 2A, 3A and 4A teams all year, you're going to be ready for 1A competition because you're going to be battle tested."

New Salem was tested Friday night, for instance, in a 72-53 loss to defending Class 3A state champion Gateway Christian of St. Louis. New Salem also has lost to defending 2A champ Warrenton Christian during a 4-4 start.

But a drop from Class 2A to Class 1A could give New Salem the chance to erase a bad memory, a state semifinal loss last year to Southern Missouri of Poplar Bluff. New Salem had already beaten the team three times prior to the state tournament.

New Salem graduated three players -- John Davault, Daniel Green and Andrew Conway -- who Jones said accounted for about 45 points per game.

But Jones has some talented players with whom to build around, this year and in the future.

Freshman Boone Gaines, a 5-foot-8 guard, is the team's leading player.

"He is a super talent," Jones said. "He's coveted by some public schools in our area. He plays a lot older than he is. He and my son [freshman Brett Jones] have played hundreds of games together from third through sixth grades, playing in leagues against a lot of the public schools."

The other returning starter is 6-0 junior Joe Davault.

New Salem has found some other contributors pretty quickly. The coach's son provides "tenacious defense," Ken Jones said. Junior Jeremy Rockhill, who stands 6-2, has taken over the post duties, and 6-5 junior Valy Wolf, an exchange student from Germany, has added offensive punch.

"For Jeremy, this is his first year in our system, and each game he has gotten better," Jones said. "It takes some time getting acclimated to a system.

"Valy didn't have a clue he could play ball. It's difficult with the understanding of the language, but he could be a special player."

Jones has his concerns about the team -- youth and a lack of size being high on the list -- but thinks his team could be on the verge of something.

"We're starting two freshmen at the guards, and size is always going to be tough for us matching up," Jones said. "We haven't won any of our 'big games' this year. It's a mark of a team learning how to win. They know how to play; they just have to learn to win the close games."

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