The returnees to this season’s Mathews program have big shoes to fill.
Last year’s senior-dominated team achieved the program’s first district title since the merger of Vienna and Fowler in 1961 and its first championship title in a decade.
As the most decorated group of seniors in the history of the program have graduated, there is excitement within the program that they can continue to build on the foundation laid by the Class of 2022.
Coach Michael Weymer hopes that last season is just the beginning of the program.
“Basketball is definitely on the rise in our community,” said Weymer. “Only the turnout for the district semi-finals and the final and then our community obviously traveled very far to Canton. Basketball in our community is really big. We probably have about 30 or 40 kids in our elementary school program and last year we started a K-2 program that tried to get kids used to basketball faster so you know they’re going to have a little bit when we get into the third grade to understand some of the basics better.”
To this season, however. Admittedly, it will be a journey early on. While things have been promising in the offseason, there may be some early lumps that the team will need to overcome due to general inexperience.
One of the few seniors on the team who has had a consistent stint on the varsity roster is Ethan Petak. It will take a handful of games to see which rotations work and who plays well with others, but the team is excited to see what’s to come this year.
Joining Petak this year are seniors Jacob Williams, Jason Haynie, Heydon Matheny and sophomore Dom Toto.
“We have seven seniors, many of whom will see their first consistent varsity action,” said Weymer. “It’s been pretty good so far in pre-season. We’re just trying to figure out how our rotation will come about and what roles certain kids can play. That was all part of the process, and honestly with our early start, it’s probably going to be work in progress for the first part of the season just to try and see roles and see all those parts come together for us, but we are definitely excited.”
The main objectives of the program have not changed. It’s a cliché, but improving every game and playing the best basketball possible at the end of the year are the Mustangs’ two main aspirations this season.
“We were very successful, last year was of course the highlight, but we’re heading towards our sixth winning season in a row,” said Weymer. “Just having that consistent success year after year is a goal for our coaching staff and for our program. Our goal is to keep getting better, keep finding ways to win games, play our best basketball towards the end of the season, and be a factor in the tournament at the end of the year.”
A large part of this improvement will come from the schedule. There are many new faces on the Mathews roster, but the schedule isn’t getting any easier. Adding to a Northeastern Athletic Conference list expected to be tougher this year, the Mustangs face off against Hubbard, Brookfield and a West Virginia State Champion in Weirton Madonna, whom they defeated 60-58 in their matchup last season.
However, as Weymer said, this team is still a work in progress. If everyone gets as used to the varsity game as is expected of them, they should still be making some noise during the season.
“We have a lot to do early in the season,” said Weymer. “We believe in our boys, we believe in our program, we believe in these kids. They’ve been a part of some really big games in recent years and while they’ve only been small roles, I think a lot of the intangibles are there for us to be successful again this year. How well we adapt to the pace and physicality of a varsity game, for some of these kids seeing their first steady varsity minutes, will be something we’ll get better at as the season progresses.
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