Loyola boys basketball preview

Photo by Pat Christman

MANKATO — Last season, the Mankato Loyola boys basketball team relied pretty heavily on Zan Raverty to score.

The guard averaged a team-leading 15.7 points a game as a junior and had a season-high of 30 points in an overtime win at New Ulm Cathedral. Raverty forced the extra session with a last-second 3-pointer in regulation, and, with 8 seconds left in overtime, converted a three-point play to all but win it.

“That was a really cool experience,” Raverty said.

This season, second-year Crusaders coach Eric Larson is hoping there will be more options around Raverty, but he still expects the senior to score and lead the team.

“We’re going to go as far as he’s able to take us,” Larson said. “He’s a high-caliber scorer. Last year we relied on him a lot to score; he shot a high volume. This year, we have some guys around him who are capable of bearing some of the load, and he’s going to be a better player because of it.”

Raverty welcomes the help.

“Last year, we didn’t have a lot of experience,” he said. “This year, with the guys coming up and the guys with one more year of experience, it’s going to be easier to win games. Teams are going to have to think about other players, not just me.”

Raverty and junior forward Micah Rentschler are the Crusaders’ returning starters. Rentschler is the team’s “best defender,” Larson said.

Other key returners include sophomore point guard Ben Ellingworth, who was the first player off the bench last season but will now move into a starting role. He averaged 7.7 points per game and dished out 2.0 assists per game as a freshman. Senior Hunter Westman (5.9 points, 3.2 rebounds per game) and junior Brendan Kane (2.3, 2.4), both forwards, are expected to be the other starters, with senior Luke Montgomery guard and sophomore guard Matthew Helget figuring into the rotation.

Raverty certainly will use them. He also led Loyola with 3.5 assists per game last season and pulled down 4.6 rebounds, tops among returning players.

“One of Zan’s biggest strengths is his intellect; the game comes naturally to him,” Larson said. “If two or three defenders come at him, he’s going to be the first to recognize that and get more people involved.”

Loyola finished 12-14 last year, a record the Crusaders would like to improve on.

“I really like the players we have back, and I like the guys who have moved into the rotation this year,” Larson said. “We’re excited about those pieces. We play a really, really tough schedule, but believe we can be one of the top teams in the section and one of the top teams in the (Valley) conference.”

That may depend on their health. Raverty has been nursing a sprained ankle to start the season, and two players currently out with injuries, senior center Cahlin Clow and sophomore guard Isiah Godfrey, could provide depth if and when they return.

The Crusaders opened the season with a loss at home against Cedar Mountain/Comfrey on Thursday. They will play Tuesday night at Medford.

Follow Shane Frederick on Twitter @puckato

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