Alliance Basketball Preview


Cam Wade, Staff Writer

Last season the Alliance Bulldogs boys basketball team narrowly missed returning to the state tournament for the third year in a row. Despite posting an impressive 19-6 record and hosting the sub-state round in late February, Blair ended the Bulldogs’ 2020-2021 campaign.

Alliance has advanced to the state tournament in 2020, 2019 and 2017 and were close in 2021 and 2018. That presents some lofty expectations for the 2021-2022 squad. However, coach Michael Baker hinted that this year’s success will be dependent on youth and inexperience.

Baker spoke to the Alliance Rotary Club on November 15, the same day the Bulldogs officially began practice. Baker said, “It’s a changing of the guard with a completely brand new team. Arguably the last six years has been one of the best runs in school history. Along the way we have had some really good players and a lot of experience come through the program. This year we will be very young.” The 2021 team featured 11 seniors, which is unheard of at Alliance High School. But many things were different last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Typically, as a senior, if you are not in the top eight on the roster, we probably aren’t going to keep you,” said Baker. “But with the pandemic, we kept as many as we did for depth, kind of like an NFL practice squad. That group was very unselfish and team first oriented and accepted the situation.” Seniors last year included Jaxon Bair, Chase Boyer, Caesen Clarke, Crayten Cyza, DeShawn Garnette, Brantz Halouska, Jayden Kelley, Chase King, Hunner Little Hoop and Jaron Matulka. Clarke led the team in both scoring and rebounding with nearly 20 points and 12 boards per game. Matulka was the team’s second leading scorer at 8.8 ppg and King was a defensive leader.

The Bulldogs will reload this season with only three seniors. Kellen Muhr, a part-time starter in 2020-2021 is the most experienced of the group. He averaged 5.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists last year. Other seniors include Jayden McCracken and Isaac Weems who each appeared in eight varsity games as juniors last season. There is a large junior class this season, with 11 players. Baker said that, while it is unusual to have that many players in one class as upperclassmen, it averages out because the sophomore and senior classes are so small. The junior class includes Nicholas Waldron who at six foot four inches provides the Bulldogs with some size and experience, he was also on the varsity roster last year. Another junior mentioned was point guard Taytom Timbers.

The Bulldogs tipoff the season with the Western Conference Tournament December 2-4. Baker credited athletic director Anita James with searching far and wide to fill up the schedule. The Bulldogs have three out of state opponents on their schedule this year, traveling to Hot Springs, South Dakota on Dec. 10 and Crazy Horse, South Dakota on Feb. 11. They play host to Burns, Wyoming on Dec. 31.

Alliance will also take part in a Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28-29 at Boone Central. It will be the same opponents as last year’s Holiday Tournament, which took place in Broken Bow. Next year, the tournament is scheduled to rotate to Adams Central in Hastings, then the Bulldogs will get their chance to host the following year. Aside from varsity, the sophomore and JV teams will begin their season Dec. 10 at Hot Springs. The freshman team will begin action on Dec. 6, traveling to Sidney.