So far, they’ve lived up to the hype.
The Flathead Braves’ boys basketball team entered this season with what coach Fred Febach thought could be the best team he’s had in his five years at the helm. After a 6-0 start, including wins in their first two Class AA games, the Braves have done nothing to dispel that notion.
But the season is still young and Febach understands that.
“Now we really get into our game schedule and routine,” Febach said. “But we’re pleased with what we’ve done so far.”
The Braves are led by standout Brock Osweiler, who has not disappointed in his highly anticipated junior season. At times, the 6-foot-8 post has been in a league of his own. He is averaging 25.2 points per game, including a season-high 30 in a 65-52 win over Whitefish on Jan. 4., along with 15.2 rebounds per game. He hasn’t scored less than 20 points in a game this year. On top of the points and boards, he is the cornerstone of Braves’ defense.
But the Braves impress on various levels, with Osweiler getting plenty of help. Josh Harris, a 6-foot-5 senior post, gives Flathead an imposing two-headed monster underneath the hoop, clogging up the lane on defense and controlling the boards on both ends. Junior guard Danny Salois makes it hard for opposing teams to press the Braves, using his quickness and ball handling to pick apart full-court defenses.
The Braves have an array of offensive weapons beyond Osweiler, which has been on display all season and was distinctly evident in the Braves’ win over CM Russell on Jan. 5. In that game, senior guard Jake Thiesen scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Braves to a narrow 65-59 victory. Osweiler finished with 22 points and 18 rebounds.
But Flathead has won its closer games on the defensive end. While averaging 68 points per game, the Braves are only giving up 54 a game, including a 51-46 win over a tough Lake City High School team from Couer d’Alene. Opponents have scored more than 60 points against Flathead only two times this season.
The Braves have shown weaknesses, though, particularly in closing out games. Namely, Febach said, they need to hit free throws and maintain their composure better when the game is on the line.
“Fortunately,” Febach said, “it’s early enough in the season to work on that.”
Osweiler agrees. For example, the Braves let a 22-point lead dwindle to nine points in the fourth quarter of their win over Whitefish. Against some teams, a lapse like that will cost the Braves the game.
“Tonight I think we went 16 for 34 from the line,” Osweiler said after the Whitefish victory. “That’s just not going to cut it in a AA game.”
Osweiler views the team’s fast start as a direct result of the team’s off-season efforts. Many of the Braves happily took on the role of gym rat, spending hours of their own time working on strength, agility, speed and, of course, basketball skills.
“It’s good to see the results and to see that it’s all paying off,” Osweiler said. “We know we have to come every night and give it our all. If we do that, we know we’ll have a pretty good season.”
The Braves are entering the heart of their Class AA schedule, with Western AA powerhouse Missoula Sentinel up next at home on Jan. 11. Sentinel is also undefeated at 7-0.
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