Bears return four starters

Josh Oberstar, Will Bittmann, Carter Flannigan, Carter Mavec, Jake Sickel and AJ Roen are expected to play the majority of the minutes for the Eveleth-Gilbert boys’ basketball team this season.’’

EVELETH — Experience shouldn’t be a problem for the Eveleth-Gilbert boys’ basketball team this season.

Much of the starting lineup returns for the 2020-21 campaign, which begins tonight at home against Greenway.

“The positive thing is that we return four starters,’’ head coach Adam Roen told the Mesabi Tribune.

Zach Lindseth and Andrew Larsen graduated last spring, but seniors Josh Oberstar and Jake Sickel are back as team captains, along with 6-6 junior Will Bittmann. Sophomore point guard Carter Mavec also returns to the fold.

“A good bulk of our scoring is returning,’’ Roen said about Bittmann and Mavec averaging a combined 31 points per game last year.

Those four will be aided by junior Carter Flannigan and sophomore AJ Roen, who both saw plenty of varsity court time last season.

“We’ve got six guys coming onto the floor that have ample experience,’’ coach Roen said. He expects a battle from them to see who will start each night, which will help the team get better. “It’s good to have competitiveness in the program.’’

While those six will see the majority of the minutes, Roen stated there are a handful of sophomores that will be ready to come up and play. That includes Griffin and Gunnar Krmpotich, along with Jaden Lang. In addition, senior Cameron Peterson and junior Carter Orent will also see some time.

Roen knew losing Lindseth to graduation was going to be a step back because he hauled in a lot of rebounds and put in points that were needed. At the same time, the coach has been excited to see how his other players would step up to pick up the slack.

The Golden Bears plan to mix it up on offense a little bit for the 2020-21 season. Depending on what defenses try against Eveleth-Gilbert, Roen says he’ll have a mix of offensive options ready to go.

Helping make that work is a team of players that have matured mentally and physically. “Having the experience from the last couple of years is going to help.’’

One big obstacle for the season will be the COVID-19 pandemic, which played a role in reduced boys’ basketball participation numbers. COVID could also impact games if a particular team comes up short handed because of the pandemic issues.

On the bright side, “the numbers that are here are ready to play.’’

With the coronavirus in mind, Roen said he and the team have to remind themselves about being happy for each day they can play ball. The virus could jump up at any time and impact the season, he added.

“I just want to thank all the families and all the athletes on the Iron Range for being patient so this can happen. So the boys and girls can enjoy a quality season.’’

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The Golden Bears host Greenway today at 7:15 p.m.

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