Veritas boys basketball aims to bounce back after 9-15 season

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Bishop Seabury's Cobe Green (24) and Luke Hornberger (32) play tight defense on Brennan Clements (35) of Veritas Friday night at Haskell Indian Nations University on Jan. 17, 2020.

The Veritas boys basketball team has become accustomed to playing its best basketball at the end of the season, but that’s not what happened during the 2019-20 campaign.

For the first time since 2015, VCS didn’t compete in the state championship game of the KCAA state tournament. After four consecutive trips to the title game, which featured two state crowns and two runner-up finishes, the Eagles were eliminated in the opening round of the state tourney this winter.

Veritas still had its moments, particularly in the first month of the year, in what ended up being a 9-15 season.

“It was kind of a backwards year,” Veritas coach Carl Huslig said. “We played our best basketball in December. As the year went on, we really struggled in January and February. We played a lot of games early, and I think maybe fatigue set in after Christmas break.”

Expecting the Eagles to just simply reload was always going to be tough. Veritas had six seniors graduate from a team that went 24-12, while junior guard Will Rau was the lone returning starter.

Although many newcomers had to shoulder bigger roles, Veritas actually got out to a 4-4 start before winter break. VCS earned a 51-50 victory over Paola in a midseason tournament at Eudora, which came one night after a 21-point defeat to Bonner Springs.

The Eagles then came back in January to secure a 59-57 win in double overtime at Cornerstone Family. They erased a 17-point deficit in the final six minutes, improving their record to 6-5 at the time.

That’s when things started to go downhill, however. After its thrilling win over Cornerstone, Veritas went on a five-game losing skid. The Eagles only won two games in the final month of the season, and struggled to find their identity in the process.

“We were young and inexperienced,” Huslig said. “We expected to take our lumps. When we played with energy and got back on defense, we were a pretty good basketball team. When we didn’t, we were not good at all.”

Huslig, who has been at the helm for six seasons, took responsibility for not using his team’s length more. The Eagles attempted to use more four-guard lineups, like they had in the past, rather than relying on their potent post game.

Veritas also couldn’t settle on a defensive scheme throughout the year.

“We never did find a defense that we excelled at the whole year,” Huslig said. “We were pretty decent offensively all season long. We were able to score, but we were not able to defend on a regular basis.”

At the same time, there is plenty of reason for the Eagles to be optimistic about their chances next year.

Huslig challenged his players to put in the work this offseason, because he understands there is potential for next year’s team to have more success. The Eagles bring back every contributor from this year’s team, and most of them flashed their ability at some point this winter.

Rau, a 6-foot-3, do-everything guard, had a sensational season for the Eagles. He led VCS in nearly every statistical category, posting an average of 18.0 points, 7.0 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game as a junior.

Junior forwards Will Bartkoski and Brennan Clements both had strong seasons, as well. Bartkoski averaged 12.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest, while Clements tallied 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per outing.

Plenty of other players made strides this past season, too. With the help of some adjustments in the offseason, the Eagles could have a better ending in the 2020-21 campaign.

“I’m spending the whole offseason (to) revamp our whole offense,” Huslig said. “We were looking forward to having a great summer to get ready for the season, and who knows what is going to happen with that.”


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