MONUMENT - Coming off a 21-7 finish and the consolation title at the District 4-1A playoffs last year, the 2004/05 season could be the one for the Monument/Dayville boys basketball team to reach the state tournament.

In his 23rd season as head coach, Skip Inscore has nine players returning to the team from last year's squad and said the Tigers could go a long way this season.

"We had some key injuries last year and I think if we had starters Donnie Duncan and Cody Riggs in the lineup, we could have defeated Wallowa in the opening round of last year's district playoffs and gone to the state tournament," Inscore said.

Duncan graduated, but Riggs is returning for his senior year and said his knee injury is healed and he is ready to play.

"We've got a lot of good players returning to the team and I think we have the potential to go a long way this year," he said.

Also returning to the lineup is senior Mani Martin, who was named a first-team all-league player last year, and senior Brad Woosley, who was a second-team all-star.

"I expect us to do really good this year," Martin, the four year veteran said. "We've got four guys who've played together since they were in about the fifth grade so we know how everybody works together. We've got another kid, Josh Ewing, who I expect will step up and do a great job."

Other seniors returning include honorable mention all-league player Carl Peterson, who was also hobbled by an injury for part of last year, and Nathan Rayburn.

"We hope to make it to the state tournament this year," Peterson said. "There's no way we won't make it to the district."

Returning juniors include Guy Anderson, Travis Henslee and Jesus Vasquez, along with sophomore Ewing.

New players include senior J.R. Moore, who played his freshman season for Long Creek and his sophomore year at Prairie City. Moore has some size and should be a factor under the boards, along with Woosley and Peterson.

"We have some experienced seniors and we will be looking to them for leadership. That's one of our strong points, we have the kids who will step up and be leaders." Inscore said. "We have the makings of a good team this year and and a lot is going to depend on injuries, eligibility and desire."

Another big player is junior Ryan Sagaser, who hasn't played on the basketball team before. Sagaser is a good athlete, and played football for the Tigers during his freshman and sophomore years. In 2004, he quarterbacked the Mitchell football team when Monument/Dayville didn't have enough players to field a squad.

Other newcomers include sophomore Tyler Smith and freshmen Chris Chapman and Daniel Rothgev.

With the inclusion of Crane and Prairie City in the TriCo League this year, the Tigers' preparation will be different than in past seasons.

"It's going to be a little different for us this season. In years past, we wanted to be ready by Christmas, but now (with the expanded league schedule) we have five league games before Christmas; so we don't have as many preseason games to get ready," he said.

Monument/Dayville plays a pair of games against Mount Bachelor Academy to open the season. The Tigers take on the Bears in Monument on Tuesday, Nov. 30, and in Dayville on Thursday, Dec. 2. Tipoff time for both games is 5 p.m.

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