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L’Anse Purple Hornets boys basketball team reloads with numbers, size

The L'Anse High School boys varsity basketball team includes, front row from left, Daymin Curto, Brian Peterson, Ethan Grentz, Jacob Laitila and Keagan Laufenberg. Top row from left, Terry Reed, Taylor Decker, DeSean Allen, Eli Ostermeyer, Brady Perry, Alex Kissel and Kegan Sweeney. Not pictured are Paul Lister-Jacobson, Kobe Robillard. (Submitted photo)

L’Anse boys

2019-20 schedule

All times Eastern

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Dec. 9 — Dollar Bay, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 12 — at Houghton, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 16 — at Republic-Michigamme, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 20 — Baraga, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 6 — at Wakefield-Marenisco, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 7 — at Watersmeet, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 13 — Ontonagon, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 20 — Ewen-Trout Creek, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 23 — at Bessemer, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 28 — Chassell, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 31 — Wakefield-Marenisco, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 4 — at Baraga, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 7 — Hancock, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 10 — Watersmeet, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 13 — at Ewen-Trout Creek, TBA

Feb. 14 — at Lake Linden-Hubbell, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 18 — at Calumet, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 25 — at Ontonagon, 7:15 p.m.

Feb. 28 — at Jeffers, 7:15 p.m.

March 5 — Bessemer, 7:15 p.m.

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L’ANSE — When a high school basketball team loses four starters to graduation, you might expect that a pretty tough season will follow.

But as the L’Anse High School boys varsity prepares for its first year in a new conference, fourth-year head coach Kyle Koski actually see improvement from a 12-9 season of last winter.

The Hornets join the Copper Mountain Conference as an MHSAA Division 3 school this season, making them the league’s largest member by enrollment.

It’s a move that Koski endorses.

“I think changing conferences is a good thing for L’Anse,” the coach said recently.

“I know our (overall enrollment) numbers keep going lower and lower every single year, so I think it’s a good fit for our program.”

There’s a flip side to radically changing the teams you normally play, though.

“The only hard part about it for me is that we haven’t played a lot of those (Copper Mountain) teams in the last few years,” said Koski, a former Baraga High and Gogebic Community College basketball player who is in his eighth year overall coaching L’Anse hoops at various levels.

“Like the Bessemers and Wakefields. We didn’t even get to play Lake Linden or Dollar Bay last year as well. Just not knowing the opponents — Watersmeet, Republic — makes it a little more difficult on me but hopefully I can get familiar throughout the year.”

Players who graduated include Reese Waara, Louie Bogda, Alec Rajala and Cooper LaPlante. Koski coached all four up from seventh grade to varsity.

“I’m losing a bit of height and a lot of experience,” the coach said.

The loss of four starters represents a lot of lost production, but with 14 players on this year’s team, including seven boys standings 6-feet or taller, there’s more than enough depth to keep the team competitive.

“I’ve got my senior point guard Terry Reed. This will be his third year on varsity,” Koski said, adding he’s been a starter each of those years. “We’re really looking forward to having him back to be our quarterback on the court. He’s put in a lot of work over the summer and gotten a lot stronger.

“Alex Kissel will be a junior shooting guard. This will also be his third year on the varsity. He was all-conference honorable mention in the West PAC last year…. (Also) two sophomores, Eli Ostermeyer — he’s about 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds — and then DeSean Allen. I had (Allen) up on the varsity last year as a freshman … and he is pretty versatile. He’s our emotional leader.”

Koski will also have junior Jacob Laitila this season after Laitila was out with a torn ACL last winter.

“He’s back at 100 percent,” Koski said, “(and) he is like instant offense coming in. He’s quick and he can do pretty much anything.”

“We would like to compete for a Copper Mountain (division) championship,” Koski said of his team goals. “Obviously that comes with a lot of hard work and getting my kids focused….

“We also want to be ready for March Madness and make some noise in the districts.”

L’Anse hosts a six-team district in March.