With advancement further into the playoffs the past two seasons, the Cougars boys basketball team has its sights set on making it to the state tournament. Before that can happen, though, the football season must end as 16 players haven’t focused much on the upcoming basketball season.

“I’ve got nine returning varsity players and last year seven of those started some games,” head coach Greg Barnes said of the squad that finished 17-12 last season.

Depth will be key for Keys as they’ll play man-to-man defense 80 percent of the time and want to involve various avenues for scoring. Additionally, Barnes said rebounding will be key to success.

“I think we’re going to play a little faster paced. We have the potential to be a higher scoring team, I played a lot of young kids last year. We are a year stronger, faster and mature, I think there is some potential there for us to be able to score and have a good mixture of ways of scoring.”

Those ways of scoring will be keyed by junior point guard Gage Barnes and senior Ryley Kimble who the elder Barnes said is the best outside shooter. As for slashing, the Cougars lost Logan Yanez to graduation, but Reed Trimble is expected to step into the role.

Barnes said he plans to rotate four post players and see what develops. These include six-foot five-inch Jackson Tarrance, Levi Troyer, Jagger Hall and Colton Combs.

Rebounding will paramount for the team after losing stretch forward Scottie Wolf to graduation

“I’ll always stress defense because you never know night to night if the ball is going to go in the basket,” Barnes said.

With the season tabbed to tip on December 1 at Poteau, Barnes is already thinking well ahead how to beat Vian, which the team will play twice. He wants to play Sequoyah as well.

“Our conference is tough,” Barnes said. “Our goal last year was to win 20 games. We won 17, but we played seven overtime games and we didn’t have a very good record in those. There were times we just didn’t do what we needed to finish some of those games out. The next step is getting to the state tournament in this my third year.”

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