This week's team to watch: Manitou Springs boys' hoops unbeaten so far

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Photo - Manitou's basketball teams warm up before practice at the school on Wednesday, January 11, 2017. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
Manitou's basketball teams warm up before practice at the school on Wednesday, January 11, 2017. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette

As they sat in the locker room after being eliminated from the Class 3A boys' basketball playoffs last season, something didn't sit right with the Manitou Springs players.

To them, it was as though the season ended prematurely.

The Mustangs were knocked out of the quarterfinals by rival Colorado Springs Christian School. Then they lost the fifth-place game to Colorado Academy. The two losses accounted for half of the program's season defeats.

Manitou coach Ken Vecchio remembers what happened following the Colorado Academy loss.

"In the locker room last year, after the last game at state, we were just kind of talking about what we've got to do now," Vecchio said Wednesday. "I think Cole (Sienknecht) was the one who stepped right up and said, 'We will be back here.'

"Take that for whatever it's worth because we approach things one game at a time, but I know they're dedicated toward trying to reach the final eight again."

Four of the Mustangs' five leading scorers returned from a season in which their 23 wins marked the most in Vecchio's 30 years at the school - he's in his 31st season now.

All that experience - including eight seniors - has them off to a perfect 8-0. To the players, that's no surprise.

"We definitely expected this start," said Lucas Rodholm, the reigning Player of the Year in the 3A Tri-Peaks League.

"... We just have a lot of confidence in each other, and that's what's really helping us out. We really know how to play with each other. We've played with each other this whole time. We're confident anyone can make a play on the floor."

Rodholm is again leading the Mustangs in scoring, averaging 17.4 points.

Not far behind are Davyn Adamscheck (14.7 ppg) and Sienknecht (13.5). Jared Keul is at 7.1 points per game.

All that scoring, yet Sienknecht, a junior, points to the team's defense as the big reason the Mustangs are beating their opponents by an average of more than 26 points.

"Last season we got better at it (defense) toward the end of the year," Sienknecht said. "But this season we all buckled down and realized that if we want to compete and be the best in the state then we're going to have to play defense and guard all 32 minutes of the game."

Their defensive effort paid off Tuesday, said Vecchio.

"A lot of our points, even last night, a lot of our points came off the defensive end," he said. "We ran very few sets the first half on offense (Tuesday)."

Up next they host Rye (4-3, 2-1) on Thursday. Next week they get undefeated 2A Peyton and down the road (Jan. 24, if you're interested) they'll get another crack at two-time defending 3A champ CSCS.

With so much experience and so much talent, the Mustangs have some high expectations.

"We want to do better than we did last year," Rodholm said. "And we want to hang a banner, in any way we can do that."

Last season's finish has spurred this season's start.

"Right after the way last season ended, losing to Colorado Academy," Sienknecht said, "we all decided that we wanted to come back and make sure that we would never lose again and be the team we knew that we could be."