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Friday, 31 January 2014 12:04

Rolling along with the Edgerton's Crimson Tide

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Edgerton continues its push toward the Rock Valley North title. Drew Pipik, far left, and assistant coach Michael McCabe, far right, watch Adam Converse work against three defenders, from the left, Ricky Williams, Cullen Oren and Brooks Johnson, during practice. Edgerton continues its push toward the Rock Valley North title. Drew Pipik, far left, and assistant coach Michael McCabe, far right, watch Adam Converse work against three defenders, from the left, Ricky Williams, Cullen Oren and Brooks Johnson, during practice. Terry Mayer/staff

JANESVILLE MESSNEGER -- Jason Knott knows that it takes time for a program making a coaching change to develop chemistry and success, and it needs a few breaks along the way.

Edgerton’s boys basketball team suffered three consecutive losing seasons, including Knott’s first at the helm after replacing 18-year veteran Mark Wanless, but it bounced back with a 14-10 overall record last year.

And, behind its core group of upperclassmen, this year’s squad already reached that victory total during a record-breaking start.

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"To start 14-0, you need some luck along the way," Knott said. "But you also have to have a lot of talent. With such a deep roster, our kids all know they don’t have a spot, so to speak. We have started something like 13 different lineups, so guys know that it’s not who starts that counts but who gains our trust enough to finish. So they’re all accountable, and every night if somebody isn’t sharp, then somebody else steps up."

The Crimson Tide’s comeback win at McFarland on Jan. 20 set a school record for best start to a season -- the 2007-’08 version began 12-0. And its win over Jefferson on Jan. 23 established another standard, this one for longest winning streak in school history after the 1950-’51 and 2003-’04 units had registered 13 straight.

Edgerton has combined stifling defense and balanced offense to dominate many foes.

The Tide has held eight foes to under 50 points, while its scoring machine includes juniors James Fox (13.9), Jake Zeimet (10.0) and Brennan Deegan (9.0) and seniors Adam Converse (11.1) and Brooks Johnson (7.9).

Seven players have registered double-digit scoring outputs. The frontcourt of Converse, Deegan and Zeimet was averaging nearly 30 points and 22 rebounds per contest.

"That’s the great thing about depth and the fact we can go eight or nine (players) almost every night, a luxury that most teams don’t have," Knott said. "Varsity basketball is physically demanding and it’s a long season. We play up-tempo on both ends for 32 minutes and rotate guys in and out. That’s how we practice and that’s how we play. And our seventh, eighth and ninth guys make plays that make a difference."

One of them is Fox, a 6-foot-2 guard who has scored 10 or more points in all but one tilt.

"The last three years our junior and senior classes have played a lot together, and that has helped team chemistry because we know each other so well," Fox said. "Our defense has improved a lot, which really helps. Our post guys have played so well, and our guards aren’t turning the ball over and we’re playing smart."

Edgerton has persevered despite a key injury. Senior and top defender Lucas Gregory was lost for the year after seven games with a torn tendon in his right foot.

"Lucas was our vocal leader who got after guys if necessary, but we’ve got a lot of good senior leadership and other guys will step up to fill that role," said Knott.

Knott said another important factor has been an improved fitness effort, established by Erik Helland, who worked with the Chicago Bulls from 1988 until he joined the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball program this year.

"It has paid big benefits so far," Knott said, adding that his players take part in three weight lifting sessions per week. "I believe it has helped in avoiding and addressing injuries, and our conditioning is so much better. That’s why we’re so strong in the third and fourth quarters."

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