Defending Champion Panthers Prepare for 17-18 Season

NORFOLK — The memories of the 2016-17 Norfolk boys basketball state championship season are fading into hopeful thoughts for the 17-18 campaign.

The Panthers finished their final practice on Wednesday night before their title-defense campaign tips off on Thursday. Head Coach Tony Siske says it was easy for him to flip the switch during the offseason.

“That was fun, but you can’t live in the past,” Siske said. “(We’re) already looking to this year and we have some kids that are eager for their opportunity.”

You’ll see mostly new faces in the Panthers’ huddle this season after the squad lost five of their top six scorers from last season, including second team all-state pick Logan Strom. Siske says he expects to have a balanced offense but points to senior Matt Hagedorn as someone who could lead the team.

“I think Matt had a great offseason and I think that he’s going to be a better player this year than he was last year,” Siske said.

The 6’5” senior was second on the team in scoring and rebounding last year at just over 10 points per game and 4.5 rebounds. Siske says it would have been easy for Hagedorn to feel like he has to everything this year, but that won’t be the case.

“He’s been a great teammate, he trusts his teammates,” Siske said. “He’s not forcing things, he just letting it come to him.”

Senior Zack James and junior Luke Kluver also figure to be major contributors with senior Ryan Schommer manning the low post. Siske looks to lean on that core to offer a balanced attack and live up to the persistently high expectations of the Norfolk program.

“We always have high expectations for our teams and that’s not going to change,” Siske said. “What we’re trying to do is improve every day and our expectation is to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year.”

The Panthers start the season at home against Creighton Prep at 7:30 PM on Thursday.

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