The Capital City Cavaliers saved their best for the month of February during last season's inaugural boys basketball campaign.
Coach Darrin Young is hoping his team can pick up where it left off, rather than starting over again, as the Cavaliers begin Year 2 tonight against the Eugene Eagles.
"I think we're going to have a lot of success," Young said. "Our summer was outstanding. All of our guys were there for every conditioning workout, and we got a lot of extra shots up and improved in a lot of areas I thought we were deficient in as a team and individually."
The Cavaliers were in a close battle with Camdenton in their first postseason game, but Camdenton pulled away to a 72-61 win, ending Capital City's first season with a 4-21 record.
"After that game was over, we asked the players, 'What emotions are you feeling?'" Young said. "One of the players said, 'I feel motivated to have a very good offseason.' I definitely feel like the guys have a lot of energy, and they're very adamant about proving themselves this year, and just showing off the work that they've put in."
The Cavaliers were originally scheduled to play today at Rolla, but that contest was canceled. Eugene — whose head coach, Ethan Shackelford, was an assistant at Capital City last season — was able to fill in for Capital City's season opener.
"We were fortunate enough to pick up Eugene as an opponent," Young said.
Capital City's top returner is junior Corde Brown, who led the Cavaliers with 16 points per game last season.
"Having the year that he went through has definitely built his confidence," Young said. "You can see it at practices on a day-in and day-out basis.
"He's becoming more of a leader and he's able to direct guys and give them the guidance that's needed to win ballgames."
Also returning as a starting guard is junior Ashden Cason, who is a perimeter shooting threat for the Cavaliers.
"He's improved his ball-handling a lot, his shooting has gotten a lot better," Young said.
Mitch Renfrow, another junior, also returns as a starter at guard, as does sophomore Blake Meredith, who averaged 15 points per game in his freshman season.
Another guard that will be in the mix is freshman Nehemiah Hamilton.
"Based off who we're playing opponent-wise, we'll probably start four guards and one big," Young said.
In the post, junior Thomas Kesete is a returning starter for the Cavaliers. Junior Owen Stieferman and sophomore Jamisen Schwarzer played in the post off the bench, but Schwarzer will miss the first 3-5 weeks of the season with a stress fracture in his ankle.
In the meantime, someone else will have to step up and help in the paint in the early going of the season.
"Because he can defend a lot of post players, we'll use Corde in the post as well," Young said. "We'll be very versatile in how we use him. You'll see Blake down there a lot."
Capital City also has a pair of transfers who are new to the roster with sophomores Robert Gray (Jefferson City High School) and Colby Gates (Helias High School).
"When you take two guys who are that competitive, it raises the competitive culture of your program," Young said. "Those two have definitely increased the competitiveness of our program."
Capital City's strength of schedule took a giant leap this season with the formation of the Central Missouri Activities Conference. The Cavaliers only played Sedalia Smith-Cotton last season out of the seven conference teams.
"We played some of those teams this summer, so we got a little dose of what they were about," Young said.
Capital City will also be in three new tournaments this season: the Tipton Tournament, the California Tournament and the Southern Boone Classic. The Cavaliers are the No. 3 seed in the Tipton Tournament, which starts the week after Thanksgiving, and will open against sixth-seeded Chamois.
"I think when you look at it, we play teams that a variety of different styles," Young said. "We play some teams that are slow-paced, some that have some good shooters, some that have some very dominant ball-handlers."
With one more season to go until Capital City has seniors on its roster, Young hopes last year's experience will be a positive for this year's team.
"The expectation now is to win," Young said.