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December 6, 2012
Northwest Montana A Conference


2012-13 Boys Basketball Preview: 

Northwestern A Polson Pirates

by John Heglie


An abridged extract of the Pirate varsity roster player profiles segment of this article has been featured in print by Leader Sports Editor Jaren Haser in the Thursday, 6 December 2012 issue of the Lake County Leader entitled: “POLSON BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Pirates Enter Season Looking for Fourth-Straight State Berth,” Lake County Leader (Th. 06 Dec 2012) B5, B12.

This unabridged version of the article in its entirety is also featured online at the Lake County Leader website <www.leaderadvertiser.com >.


For the benefit of those who may find reading such a comprehensive presentation somewhat cumbersome, section headings have been provided so that one can skip past portions deemed of less interest to a reader in order to get to  those portions considered to be of greater significance. LAYOUT = previous season recap, roster attrition, current player roster(s), season analysis




The 2011-12 rendition of the Polson Pirates (2-6 NWA conference, 10-14 overall) can largely be summed up as a team whose season vacillated between brilliantly executed basketball in certain instances while being plagued by inconsistency in other contests.   As the Pirates were just beginning to achieve some continuity in reforging their identity just past the midpoint juncture of the regular schedule, 6-5 post Tyler Krell would be lost for the remainder of the winter campaign on account of a knee injury.  To add further insult to injury, the sharpening to the edge of the Pirate sword that was anticipated to come from the eligibility of Butte transfer junior 5-9 guard Isiah Matt toward the latter part of the season would reap them little benefit when he sustained a hand injury unrelated to basketball that would sideline him the remainder of the season. The debilitating effects of those two incidents to the corporate team psyche can be measured by the ensuing five game skid at the end of their regular schedule, a pair of losses coming to teams they had handily beaten earlier in the season, although a pair of other games were within a basket or two before time expired, one of the latter to ranked Columbia Falls by a single point.    


Once the NWA Divisional tournament arrived, Polson was not anticipated to advance very far by tournament opponents.   In the opening round against Libby, Polson would find itself locked in a see-saw battle in which the lead switched back and forth, the outcome hinging on a waning seconds deuce by Zach Camel that ended the losing streak with a 33-32 victory and propelled the Pirates into the semifinal against the 4th-ranked Columbia Falls Wildcats.  A sluggish start quickly dug Polson into a double-digit differential hole in the first half, but the Pirates almost matched the Wildcats in offensive productivity the second half.  Nonetheless, the cumulative deficit would relegate them to the consolation round where they would re-engage Libby once again, only this time around Polson was able to expand a lead into double figures to win the Consolation Championship.  A Whitefish loss to Columbia Falls in the NWA Championship would open the door for a challenge game for the right to represent the NWA Conference at the state tournament as its second-seed.  Even though Polson had lost both regular season contests to the Bulldogs, superb defensive coverage of the Whitefish perimeter shooters and better shot selectivity on the part of the Pirates would be enough to stave off the challengers for the right to go to State, the third trip in a row for Polson in as many seasons. 

Bouyed by the prospect of punching their ticket to play among the orchestra of the State A Tournament, the ensuing matchups unfortunately ended in somewhat anticlimactic fashion with enough off-key notes being fiddled that they ultimately soured optimum performance in comparison to the trio of NWA Divisional triumphs.  Polson would succumb to both Dillon and Livingston by point spreads in the 20s largely on account of dismal shooting from beyond-the-arc as well as sub-par conversion rates inside of it.  Nevertheless, qualifying for their third trip to state in a row proved to be a nice exclamation point to a season that had otherwise been tainted by inconsistent basketball.  Last year’s postseason run and trip to the big state will hopefully have whet the appetite of the returning players to aspire to greater heights as a new schedule commences.




All-state, thrice all-conference (1st-team 11-12/09-10, 2nd-team 10-11)  6-5 post Tyler Krell exceeded membership requirements to the century club in scoring for three seasons, surpassing that plateau for rebounding his sophomore and junior years.     He has turned in two dozen double-digit scoring performances during the course of the career as a Pirate and turned in a quintet of double-doubles, coming up just short of picking up more than a handful of others.  His career high was 31 against visiting Hamilton his final year.  His varsity prep career (08-09 thru 11-12) stats spanning Charlo his freshman year and Polson thereafter tally at 567 points (C+193+195+179), 296 rebounds (C+114+113+69), 52 blocks (C+11+38+3), 53 steals (C+20+24+9) and 29 assists (C+12+9+8). 

C = Charlo data outstanding.  Should this data become available, it will be integrated into the online version at a later date.


Track two-time all-conference 4x100 relay-runner; football 2011 NWA offensive MVP, 2010 NWA offensive co-MVP, all-state (11), thrice all-conference 1st-team quarterback; all-state (10), twice all-conference 1st-team free safety (11/10); all-state (09), all-conference 1st-team strong safety (09); and basketball all-conference 2nd-team (09-10)  5-11 guard Vince DiGiallonardo regularly showcased some of his slashing as well as acceleration capability among his athletic moves that captured the attention of collegiate football scouts for the Montana State University Bobcats for whom he is now playing.  Vinny D fell just five short of draining his 100th prep career 3-pointer (0+47+18+30) and was ranked among the TOP TEN of the NWA conference for free-throw shooting proficiency as well as for steals for his final two season, finished his senior year stratified among the TOP TWENTY for assists.   DiGiallonardo engineered 23 double-digit scoring performances during the course of his prep career with a career high of 22 points against visiting Hamilton in double overtime his sophomore season.   His four year varsity prep career (08-09 thru 11-12) stats tally at 550 points (6+217+121+206), 178 rebounds (6+72+35+65), 2 blocks (0+0+2+0), 127 steals (5+35+37+50) and 148 assists (1+67+41+39). 


Golf  all-state (10), two-time all-conference (10/09) and basketball all-conference honorable mention 6-4 forward/post Cody Fischer was one of the versatile players on the Pirate roster with both inside as well as outside capability who would make periodic forays onto the rungs of the TOP TEN ranked within the NWA conference for scoring treys as well as deuces, combined field-goal percentage, total points, rebounding and for blocks. Fischer’s three year varsity prep career (09-10 thru 11-12) stats tally at 342 points (52+86+204), 187 rebounds (47+49+91), 8 blocks (3+3+2), 29 steals (7+6+16) and 30 assists (7+8+15). 


Football all-conference honorable-mention receiver and tennis doubles all-state, two-time all-conference 6-2 forward Ian Laimbeer was the leading rebounder for the Pirates last season and for a couple of  weeks running led the NWA conference with double-digit boards per game.  Over the course of his prep varsity career, he has turned in a trio of double-figure scoring outings, five games in which he gathered in double figures for rebounding, with one double-double.  Laimbeer’s varsity prep career (09-10 thru 11-12) stats tally at 145 points (15+19+111), 158 rebounds (5+8+145), 2 blocks (1+0+1), 27 steals (3+7+17) and 42 assists (3+10+29).   Currently in attendance at Gonzaga, this past Fall Laimbeer threw for 5 touchdowns while quarterbacking the winning residence hall in the Bulldog Bowl intramural football game and is purported to be playing some of his best basketball in pickup games.


Track all-state, two-time all-conference 4x400 relay-runner and basketball all-conference 2nd-team senior 6-0 guard Zach Camel, who emerged as the leading scorer for the Pirates last season when Krell went down with a knee injury, has transferred to another school when his family relocated.  Camel was a proficient three-point sharp shooter who was regularly featured among the stats of the TOP TEN not only for treys, but also for scoring deuces, combined field-goal percentage, total points scored, with upper eschalon representation for steals and assists. Camel’s PHS varsity prep career (09-10 thru 11-12) stats tally at 378 points (26+72+280), 137 rebounds (8+43+86), 7 blocks (0+6+1), 83 steals (4+21+58) and 118 assists (8+37+73). 


Tennis doubles 2011 all-conference, 2012 NWA Divisional singles champion and football dual accolade all-conference (1st-tm P, 2nd-tm DE) junior 5-11 reserve guard/forward Brady Hislop contributed 80th percentile free-throw shooting among his roundball repertoire during reserve relief of other varsity players.  Hislop made a deep run into the singles bracket at the state tennis tournament last season, just missing all-state accolades.  Coming from a tennis family and having caught a whiff of the scent of hardware in the air last Spring, it comes as little surprise that he opted to concentrate efforts upon honing his tennis game skills so as to maximize his chances at a deeper run this coming Spring. 


Track 2011 all-conference 4x100 relay-runner; football two-time all-state, two-time all-conference 1st-team defensive end as well as two-time all-conference (1st-tm 12, hm 11) offensive tackle senior 6-2 reserve forward Eric Williamson had worked his way onto  the varsity roster toward the latter part of last season as a supplemental reserve, but other commitments precluded his participation this time around. 


Baseball Senior Babe Ruth 2010 all-star and Mission Valley Mariner managerial assistant senior 6-4 post Quinn Harlan underwent an off season surgical procedure on his arm to repair an injury sustained in baseball, taking him out of the equation for consideration as a contributor to the Pirate fortunes this season.


STATISTICAL NOTATION:  The 3 game State A Tournament stats for the 2010-11 season which were consulted for career stat compilations have unattributed data which was not assigned to some individual players.  Consequently, the overall totals for Camel, DiGiallonardo, Krell, Fischer or Laimbeer may be slightly higher as only leading stat contributors were reported in the media coverage of those games. 




Track & Field 2012 divisional champion, twice all-conference discus thrower; all-state, 2012 divisional champion, twice all-conference shotputter; and football 2012 NWA offensive co-MVP, twice all-state, twice all-conference 1st-team offensive guard as well as twice defensive all-conference (1st-tm DL 12, 1st-tm DE 11) senior 6-3 post Riley Sampson exceeded century club membership requirements for both scoring and rebounding last season.  Unfortunately, Sampson incurred a shoulder injury in a football playoff game which will keep him courtside until after the first of the year as he undergoes rehab physiotherapy.  Look for Polson to get a boost in its competitiveness and depth when he returns to the lineup. 


Tennis doubles all-state, 2011 NWA conference champion, two-time all-conference and football 2012 NWA defensive co-MVP, twice all-state, thrice all-conference strong safety (1st-team 12/11, 2nd-team 10), twice all-conference (1st-tm 12, 2nd-tm 11) receiving corps as well as all-conference 1st-team return specialist senior 6-0 guard Will Davey blends deceptive acceleration, good hands and a superb sense of timing all into a single package.  He has good receiving skills in traffic as belied by the playoff game touchdown reception he hauled in between a pair of Laurel defenders.  Davey just missed attaining century club membership for both scoring and rebounding last season.  It is anticipated that he will breach both thresholds his final season.


Football all-conference (2nd-tm CB) junior 5-9 guard Cedrick Smith has superb ball-handling skills along with a good sense of timing as evidenced by the interceptions he picks off during football season.  His extended minutes on the floor during the NWA Divisional tournament last season helped respark the flickering flame of the Pirates at a couple of critical junctures and it is anticipated that he will be one of the spoons that stirs the pot of the Polson offense.


Football all-conference (1st-tm CB) senior 6-2 forward  Dylan Kelley has good court perception and has been honing his defensive skills to become a more pesky defender.  He has expanded his shooting repertoire by adding an improved long range shot from beyond-the-arc.    A wide receiver and defensive back during football season, Kelley not only has good hands for reeling in passes, but also a sharp eye for interceptions when playing passing lanes. 


Golf all-state, four-time all-conference and tennis doubles all-conference senior 6-2 forward Hayden Congdon will be one of the telephone techs among the Pirate roster who can dial the operator long distance when he places those calls that connect with a triple at the other end of the line.  As belied by his multiple golf accolades, Congdon knows how to drive for show and put for dough - as in drain his shots with reference to the latter.


Junior 6-1 forward/post Austin Corrigan has been an influental factor on the court in games in which he played over the past pair of seasons.  It is anticipated that Corrigan will see a much more expanded role this season with Sampson sidelined for part of the schedule.  


Football all-conference (hm QB) sophomore 6-2 guard/forward Andrew Weltz orchestrated the Pirate offense from behind center during football season, where he demonstrated  some cool bravado under pressure as he delivered some crisp, on-the-button passes to his receiving corps.  With a pair of his favorite targets among the roster of the basketball team, opponents can anticipate a high ratio of pass completions during fast breaks if the ball bounces its way into his hands.  


Ronan transfer sophomore 6-2 forward/post Cedric Earthboy has a soft shooting touch and a set of springs in his legs for outjumping his competition.  Having participated in the cross-country program, he should have loads of stamina for running back and forth up and down the court.  His arrival should provide a big boost to the Pirate playbook this season.


Sophomore 6-0 guard Derek Peel has a superb shooting repertoire at his disposal which is anticipated to infuse the weaponization of the the Pirate offense this season.  Improvements in his ball handling capabilities will expand the array of scoring opportunities that can be exploited as he penetrates opposing defensive alignments.   Endowed with quick reflexes and reaction time, Peel is also able to plug gaps quickly on defense to seal off seams that might have otherwise been exploited.


Sophomore 5-10 guard Chris McDonald exercises good court sense by making sound decisions.  His quickness opens up opportunities to net points with a nice shooting touch and it is anticipated that he will make some valuable contributions with his minutes on the court. 


Sophomore 5-10 guard Zadin Bautista was sidelined part of last season on account of injury, but his adept ball handling skills and slashing capability create opportunities for penetrating opposing defensive alignments.


Managerial and statistical duties will be conducted by volleyball blocking TOP TEN senior Tanisha Matt, dashing cross-country senior Marlee Seemann and junior Stephanie McDonald.  Additional logistical support may be supplemented by others whose identities had not been confirmed by the time this article was released for public viewing.




Sophomore 6-2 post Liam Schoening made significant strides last season at mastering various aspects of the inside game.


Sophomore 5-7 guard Grey Fitzpatrick is a hustling player with long-range shooting capability who can net points off kick-outs. 


Sophomore 6-0 guard/forward Ryan Turner in some ways resembles the unexplored reserves of an oilfield in that his presence among the lineup provides the Pirates with pockets of  athletic potential awaiting to be tapped.  A couple of his identified strengths are his hustling style of play and good defense.


Freshman 6-2 forward Hudson Smith was a preferred target among the receiving corps during froshmore football contests on account of his reach and good hands.  Opponents can expect more of the same trouble when a more spherical ball winds up at his fingertips.


Freshman 5-6 guard Peyton Lefthand has quick feet, good ball-handling skills and keeps a wary eye on the lookout for assists.  His mid-range and long-distance shooting capability mark him as a scoring threat if he is left unguarded in the open.




5-9 Jacob Clairmont, 5-6 Caleb DesJarlais, 6-1 Wyatt Ducharme, 5-10 KC Gieber, 5-7 Jacob Harrod, 5-6 Ty James, 5-8 Anthony Morigeau, 5-7 Shane Rehbein, 5-9 Witt Sampson and 5-10 Anthony Small.




Head varsity coach Brad Pluff embarks upon his fourth year at the helm of the Pirates, aided by Vern Hewankorn, a former Pirate basketball player in assistant coach Colton Woods and Polson’s own version of Coach K in frosh coach Joey Kolattukudy.   Beyond graduation, with transfer, injury or what not further depleting those who were anticipated to contribute to the Pirate lineup this time around, the current season would have to be classified under the rubric of a rebuilding year.  But opponents of this year’s rendition of the Polson Pirates might want to be careful that they don’t underestimate the capabilities of those who will comprise the roster of this season’s rendition of the Polson Pirates. 


Toward the latter half of last season the backcourt of the Pirates was already in the process of making its transition with Davey seeing significant action in all of the two dozen games played last year and Smith garnering strategic minutes in three-quarters of them with an expanding role.  While Kelley initially spelled starters in a reserve capacity and Congdon was integrated into the expanded roster the latter portion of the winter campaign, both forwards distinguished themselves as contributors at both ends of the floor.   Once graduated post player Krell went down with a knee injury the final quarter of last year’s regular schedule, Sampson became an integral centerpiece around which the offense could revolve about as evidenced by the trio of triumphs at the NWA Divisional.  That is a descent nucleus upon which to reconstitute a revamped roster of  roundball resourcefulness.   Where Polson might have been vulnerable would have been at bench depth if the above mentioned were the only returnees, but factor in transfers Earthboy along with Weltz and the Pirates are fairly close to where one would anticipate they would ordinarily have been in the course of a transition from one season to the next.   Granted, the seasoning of the depth further down the line of its bench strength might be initially thin from the standpoint of proven experience, but the increased playing opportunites that the supplemental reserves can be expected to reap over the course of the season as it progresses will merely accelerate their development to the point that their maturization should provide a boost to the purple & gold hardcourt economy.  What the team will need to compensate for is the initial absence of Sampson as that protagonistic presence in the Pirate post until he is mended enough to return, an adjustment that is within team capabilities since they were demonstrated at the divisional tournament last season when Krell was sidelined.


With no overt go-to person or scoring behemoth among its lineup like its all-state accolade recipients of the past, Polson will need to rely more on spreading the wealth around as they seek to shoulder scoring responsibilities as well as share defensive burdens together to maximize their chances for a successful season.  If they can elevate their game like was done during the NWA Divisional last season, they could fare well.  Defensive assignments can ill afford too many lapses.  When it comes to scoring droughts, detrimental doldrums or haunting hiccups cannot afford to be indulged for any length of time.  Sound shot selectivity is probably the best antidote for staving off those kinds of dry spells that tended to plague them during several of their losses last season.  The consistencies that the team exemplified at last year’s Divisional wins provide a good template from which to pattern their aspirations as they embark upon a new season.   A case in point would be the defensive efforts of Will Davey in shutting down NWA three-point king and second-leading NWA conference scorer Jared Winslow of Libby, who had 50 triples to his credit at the time of the consolation final game at Divisionals.  With Davey sticking to Winslow like glue, this leading Logger could only convert one trey during the course of the entire game where he tended to average in the neighborhood of a trio per contest and was held to a third of his almost 15 points per game average.


Having no superlative standout who soars scoringwise head and shoulders above any of the others could play to the advantage of Polson.  Other teams will be hard pressed to concentrate their efforts in shutting down one individual because any current Pirate player could conceivably emerge as their biggest nemesis at any given juncture during the course of the game.  But on the flipside, Polson will need to identify quickly those who synchronize the hot hand with the sharp eye for the bucket early on in its contests so that they can exploit that advantage to the max.  The complexion of the current rendition of the Pirates is suggestive that the overall fortunes of the team as a whole are liable to rise or fall based upon the quality of play exhibited among all its corporate contributors.  In a team sport like basketball, this should be considered a strength rather than a disadvantage. 


Having prognosticated about Pirate plundering possibilities, what might a cursory glance at the remainder of the conference teams look like? 

NWA Conference & Divisional Champion Columbia Falls Wildcats might not have the presence of NWA basketball’s beast of the box to contend with since Austin Barth graduated, but they will have plenty of punch among returnees toting assorted all-conference credentials like senior 6-0 guard Luke Kazlauskas (sc / bbb 2nd-tm), junior 6-4 forward Jared Trinastich (fb 2nd-tm QB), senior 6-2 forward Colin King (fb 2nd-tm WR, 2nd-tm CB), last season’s FT-shooting clinician (25-28 FT = 89%) junior 5-8 guard Alex Presnell (fb hm CB) and senior 6-2 forward Austin Cahoon (fb 2nd-tm C) among others. 

The Whitefish Bulldogs return a pair of basketball all-conference accolade recipients in  40th percentile triple converting senior 5-6 guard Copper Olson (2nd-tm) and century club rebounder as well as double-digit shot blocking senior 6-1 guard Jace Kalbfleisch (bbb hm / xc all-state, 2012 NWA Divisional champion, 3x all-conf). They are supplemented by  junior 6-4 forward Art Doorn (golf all-state, 2x NWA div champ, 3x all-conf), senior 6-0 post Jake May (fb 2nd-tm C 12, hm G 11, hm DL 12), senior 6-1 guard Logan Harwood (fb 2x 1st-tm WR) among others.

Libby returns among others the colossal cannon of the conference in multi-sport accolade accompanied all-conference three-point conversion king  junior 6-1 guard Jared Winslow (bbb 1st-tm / fb all-state QB, 1st-tm QB, 1st-tm FS), senior 6-2 post Kraig Nelson (fb 1st-tm TE 12, 2nd-tm C 11, 2nd-tm DL 12, 2nd-tm DE 11), a couple of senior guards in Dan Leggins (fb hm WR) along with Lane Luscher (fb 2nd-tm WR, 2nd-tm CB) and a pair of post players hovering around the six and a half foot mark to terrorize trajectories in Tarasik Krisanov (fb hm DL) as well as Cody Black. 

The Frenchtown Broncs will attempt to reign in their competition with multiple athletic accolade accentuated players like senior 6-0 guard Daniel Lebsock (bbb hm / fb NWA offensive co-MVP, all-state, 1st-tm RB 12, hm TB 11, 2nd-tm LB 12), junior 6-2 guard John Chapman (bbb 2nd-tm / fb 2nd-tm FS), senior 6-4 forward Kyle Cyr (fb 1st-team TE), senior 5-10 guard Matt Price (fb 1st-team CB), senior 6-2 forward Levi Shepard (fb hm SS) among others.


The basketball season for Polson opens for the Frosh with a contest against the visiting Bigfork Vikings on Tuesday, December 4th, while varsity action commences with the Tip-Off Tournament jointly hosted between Corvallis and Hamilton the weekend of December 7-8 with games against Dillon and Anaconda. 





stats courtesy of Terry Werner culled from nwmta <ihigh.com/nwmta> website archives

select player input provided courtesy of the basketball coaching staff

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