By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Galena boys basketball coach Matt Meyr isn’t expecting any easy nights in the CNC.
“I think just about any team could come in and win this thing,” Meyr said. “The winner of this league could end up with a couple losses.”
The Bulldogs, who finished 7-0 in the CNC last year, open defense of their league crown on the road tonight against the Girard Trojans.
Galena (9-4) knows it will be a tough road ahead. The Bulldogs already have lost nonleague games to the CNC’s Riverton, St. Mary’s-Colgan and Columbus.
But the Bulldogs are continuing to make strides after graduating six seniors, including all-CNC performers Chad Shepherd and Zac Gougler, from last year’s championship squad.
“We lost six good seniors who got a majority of the minutes,” Meyr said. “We have two or three who received a lot of minutes last year. We’re playing four or five sophomores this year.”
Junior Deven Newman and seniors Ray Slimp and J.J. Helton are the veterans from last season.
Newman, an all-CNC honorable mention last year, leads the Bulldogs with about 16 points per game.
“He’s our point guard,” Meyr said. “He’s got the ball in his hands most of the time. We’re looking for him to score the points.”
Galena’s scoring is pretty balanced after Newman. Slimp and sophomore J.C. Pugsley are both averaging about eight points.
“The sophomores have come a long way from the beginning of the season,” Meyr said. “They kind of came out bright-eyed when they first stepped on a varsity floor. They’ve all come a long way.”
The Bulldogs lost 52-47 to Colgan on Saturday in the championship of the Tony Dubray Classic in Liberal and 39-36 to Riverton on Jan. 9. Meyr said the close losses show his team that it hang in there with the league’s best.
“Riverton and Colgan were picked high in the conference, and we were picked a little lower this year,” Meyr said. “But we’re going to take a shot at winning this thing again. It shows our kids they can compete.”
Before Galena worries about the likes of Riverton and Colgan, it must get past a Girard team that is 6-6 overall and 1-0 in the CNC after playing a difficult early-season schedule, which included several SEK schools.
“(Girard) coach (Rod) Wescott has done a great job for a long time,” Meyr said. “I know he will have his kids ready to go.”