Boys' basketball preview: CSCS presents tall challenge for 3A opponents

By Kevin Carmody Updated: December 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm • Published: December 3, 2013 | 8:50 pm 0

Teams on the Colorado Springs Christian School boys' basketball schedule whose players dare venture into the paint, here's your warning: actually, make it two, both in the form of extremely tall, shot-blocking, rebound-grabbing big men, sure to impact play in the post in a way never before seen at CSCS.

Meet 6-foot-9 junior Nic Doherty and 6-7 sophomore Samuel Howard.

"Having two big men instead of one, we can really work together and have an even stronger post area this year," said Doherty, the team's leader in blocks last season with nearly three per game. "Plus, if other teams collapse on the big guys, then our guards will be open. It works as an advantage, plus, we have a backup if the guards are having an off night shooting."

During the past three seasons, the Lions have accumulated a 70-5 record but reached the state tournament only in 2011-12, when they took an undefeated record to Moby Arena in Fort Collins, only to drop a 20-point decision to Holy Family in the quarterfinals.

Last year's team went 21-3 but fell one game short of a trip back to Fort Collins, yet still held its opposition to 35.1 points per game, the second fewest in state history.

And that was just the first year of the two-big-men era.

"When you go back a couple of years, we had Nate (Engesser) and Kyle (Broekhuis), and we were very perimeter oriented," said CSCS coach Mark Engesser, father of Nate, now at the University of Denver, and Justin, a Lions freshman. "We didn't have that inside presence at all. We've gone full circle. This is how we're going to be the next two years."

Howard, who used his box-out technique to grab 14 receptions for 176 yards during football this season, looks forward to controlling the low post.

"Nick is a great shot blocker, and having us both on the court will make teams shoot outside more," said Howard, who averaged 8.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last season. "We're all very excited to start the new season. We think we have all the pieces to get back to the state tournament."

If there is a weakness, it's the youth of the CSCS squad, which has no seniors after a large graduating class took its most experienced players.

Doherty doesn't see age or experience as stumbling blocks to taking that extra step to the state tournament, which this season will be at Clune Arena at Air Force.

"Last year was mine and Sam's first year playing varsity," Doherty said. "It's a lot more intense, and we're ready for that now. You have to have the mindset to work harder because the players are better."

And at CSCS, a few of them are a lot taller, which almost makes them a novelty for teams looking for a unique kind of battle.

"We had a scrimmage at Rampart, and that's why they wanted to scrimmage us," Engesser said. "They said they hadn't seen anyone as big as us."

Neither, quite likely, has anyone else. From now on however, the games will count.

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