Fans of sports teams often point to a significant victory as a turning point. After leading his young team through an inaugural season 4-23 record, Chanhassen Storm coach Nathan Pelowski may have guided his group to that first big victory on Tuesday night. The Storm upset 4th ranked Waconia 81-69 behind 23 points from senior Chance Panning.
How monumental was the victory? That's up for debate but Coach Pelowski wants it to springboard his group towards better success.
"Hopefully, we can use this game as a reason why we work hard each and every day in practice in order to improve," said Pelowski. "We just had two great practices before the game and the boys really pushed each other to improve. We need to keep that mindset as we advance throughout this year.
"Our motto is each day we step on the court we want to become a better player and as a result of what I do at practice we want our team to be better as well. We try to focus on one day at a time while learning from our mistakes and our successes. The boys should be happy with the way they played and I am proud of their effort, attitude and commitment to their team."
What a difference those practices must have made. Just four days earlier the Storm were controlled by a relatively inexperienced Prior Lake group losing 53-45 in sluggish contest. Motivation can be a tricky thing though and Chanhassen was definitely focused after their season opening effort.
"I was impressed by the level of improvement we made from our first game," Pelowski stated. "Each day we strive to become a better player individually and a better team. The level of improvement that our team has made from game one to game two has made me proud to be their coach."
Chanhassen received the 23 points (and four steals) from Panning, 6-foot-6 senior Eric Witthus put up 17 points and six rebounds inside, Brandon Arnold dished out 11 assists, and junior wing Kevin Jensen scored a dozen. Even more importantly Witthus, Jensen, and the young Storm held Vanderbilt signed Shelby Moats to 16 points.
"We really came out and set the tone offensively and defensively in the first 8 minutes," explained the coach. "We forced Waconia into turnovers by being in proper defensive stance and then we converted those opportunities into points on the other end.
"We were able to rotate three guys on Shelby Moats and make him earn every point that he got. Each guy did their part to make sure that he didn't go off. Shelby showed why he is a great player but we held him below what he is used to getting."
Waconia fell behind 43-31 at the break but did make a second half run. A three-pointer from the Wildcats cut the lead to seven but Panning's response of a three back the other way really put a dent in Waconia's comeback attempt.
Chanhassen doesn't have much time to enjoy their big victory. Tonight they travel to Lakeville North to face a Panther team with some juniors who are coming into their own.