Posted On: 04/17/18 8:41 PM
This offseason PHD’s will preview all 108 Class B boys basketball teams in North Dakota. Hillsboro-Central Valley won the title this past season as they’ve now won back-to-back. These team previews will cover everything from what letter winners are coming back to who is trying to turn their program around headed into next year.
Entering the final week of December 2017, the Hankinson Pirates were 3-2 and were heading in the right direction.
Head coach Mike Gaukler knew 10 wins was attainable for the Pirates but then the New Year hit and a wrench was thrown into their plans.
The Region 1 team lost six straight games from Dec. 28 to Jan. 16 and finished the season 7-14.
“We weren’t finished,” Gaukler told his team during their losing streak.
“So much parity in the region allowed for us to stay in the hunt. The boys always knew that a win could always turn things in our direction.”
The Pirates stayed in the hunt with the help of Hayden Boll and Jaxon Mauch. Boll, a 6-foot-0 junior guard averaged 13.6 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and shot 36 percent from behind the arc last season.
Mauch, a 6-foot-3 forward was the Pirates second leading scorer and finished the 2017-18 year averaging 9.6 points per game and a team-high 11.3 rebounds.
Unfortunately, a first round region tournament exit by Enderlin ended Hankinson’s season.
However, Boll, Mauch and Hankinson’s top two players off the bench will return next season.
“We will be a better perimeter team,” Gaukler said as his squad shot 31 percent from the three-point line last season. “As always the physical strength factor in a number of our players always poses problems for opponents.”
The Pirates lose four seniors but return nine players who will be upperclassmen. Experience is going to be a big strength for Hankinson as they transition into a new season.
But there are definitely holes that need to be filled, Gaukler said.
Mason Falk, Devan Round and Race Kath won’t be back next season due to graduation and all averaged just about 8.0 points per contest.
However, Gaukler is confident in the pieces the Pirates have coming back.
“We have many pieces slotted but everyone needs work on a little bit of everything,” he added. “Our perimeter shooting was better this past season but it must get much better.”
“The game has transitioned towards a three point shooters game. I guess this old coach needs to recognize the need for more of a perimeter threat.”
Defensively, Hankinson was one of the worst in the region and allowed 62.7 points per game to opponents. Nine times the Pirates allowed their opponents to score 65 points or more in 21 games.
“Defense has been disappointing the past couple seasons,” Gaukler added. “We need to refocus on our identity and get things done on the defensive side.”
Gaukler has high expectations for a team that finished seven games under .500 but he said it also depends how many of his student-athletes get in the gym this offseason.
“I’m thinking a 5th or 6th place finish regular season is fair,” the 20-year head coach said about next season’s goals. “The season hinges on our boys getting to the gym this summer and competing in summer league.
The Pirates are still in search for a trip to the state tournament as its been 11 years since Hankinson made it to the big dance. They took sixth in 2007 after losing to Four Winds-Minnewaukan in the fifth-place game.