CALCUTTA - One small step could turn into a giant leap for the Beavers.
After an 0-21 season, Beaver Local broke a 24-game losing streak last year and went on to win seven games. Now, the Beavers are hoping to turn the corner for good.
"As a program, it definitely lifted things up," Beaver Local coach Jake Walgate said. "I think if we had a few breaks here and there, it could have been even better. We got after it every game and competed every game. Now, I think teams will look on their schedule, see Beaver Local and know they're in for a tough night."
Despite the team's increased success last season, Walgate said neither him nor his team are resting on their laurels.
"The guys can definitely see the progress they've made," he said. "But, we're not satisfied with where we are. We don't want to take a step back so we're going to keep pushing forward every day."
A group of six seniors last season were a big reason why the Beavers were much improved.
Gone to graduation are Ryan Smith (12.6 ppg), Nick Miller (7.6), Kevin Sevey (6.1), Cody Dawson (4.3), Cody Reese (3.7) and Jake Allen (2.7).
With those losses, the Beavers will likely rely heavily on senior Troy Hudson this year.
Hudson ranks third among returning leading scorers in the area after averaging 15.4 points per game last season. Hudson was a model of consistency, scoring double digits in 18 of the Beavers' 21 games.
"He's been our scorer the last two years," Walgate said of Hudson.
"We're going to need him to score, but also to trust his teammates. Defenses will key on him. He's still got to get his shots, but also be able to provide opportunities for others."
Over the past three seasons, the Beavers have turned to Miller to distribute the basketball as the starting point guard. With Miller's exit, in steps sophomore Chase Hilliard to run the show.
"Nick did a wonderful job from a young age for us," Walgate said. "We're hoping Chase is setting up for the same role. But, he'll have some guys beside him this season to help him out."
Senior Zack Mick, who averaged 5.2 points per game last season, appears poised to take over some of the scoring for the Beavers.
Rounding out the starting lineup with Hudson, Hilliard and Mick will likely be seniors Brandon Fetty and Matt Chamberlain. Also in the mix are Ethan Campbell, Josh Underwood, Chandler Cornell and Trevel Thompkins.
One area of concern for Walgate is his team's lack of size.
"Since I've been there, height has always been a problem," Walgate said. "We've got a couple of guys maybe 6-foot-2, but we'll have to get after it on the boards to make up for it."
Walgate said his team's unselfish nature coupled with its athleticism and quickness should be able to compensate for what the Beavers lack in post play.
If Beaver Local is to take the next step as a program, the road won't be an easy one. The Beavers will compete in the All-American Conference again this season before becoming an independent.
"We're definitely not satisfied," Walgate said. "Did we give everything we had every night? Yes, but we had some mistakes that were preventable. I think we lost eight to 10 games by 10 points or less. We've got to control the game at the end.
"We've been talking as a team about finishing games. We let some close games get away from us. It comes down to execution."