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Bulldogs approach season with a particular focus on building chemistry and playing together.

WILL DENNER/MADRAS PIONEER - Along with Matt Krueger, senior Weston Basl (3) figures to be one of Culver's primary scoring options once again from his wing position.
There was plenty of blame to be shared for why the Culver boys basketball team finished last season with a 1-18 record.

Perhaps the biggest downfall was the Bulldogs' lack of team cohesion. In need of better communication and leadership, head coach Johnny Wilson made it a priority to address the issue going into summer league play and team camps at Oregon State and Seaside.

"I told the kids, 'I'm not going to do a lot of X's and O's, but I want to see you guys communicate with each other, working hard, and just getting along,'" Wilson said. "Nobody here is going to be able to do it by themselves. It's got to be a total team effort."

No matter how the Bulldogs finish out this season, they will almost surely play more as a team. And to get a sense of that improvement, look no further than Culver's top two offensive options — seniors Weston Basl and Matt Krueger.

Though both are skilled one-on-one players who can create off the dribble, too often last season, Wilson saw the ball get stuck on offense and lack movement.

This summer, they became more attentive to moving the ball, realizing it can actually help them get better looks at the basket.

"We're playing a lot more together through the offense," Krueger said. "It's not just one person wanting to score, it's everybody working together wanting to score."

Whereas Culver tried to slow the pace down last season, in part due to a shortage of depth and personnel, Wilson said the team expects to play with a little more pace this season.

Although they will be at a loss for size, after graduating an accomplished rebounder and shot blocker in Mike Davis, their new-look, small-ball lineups will allow for more versatility than they had a year ago.

Although undersized for the post, seniors David Gutierrez and Edwin Gutierrez can defend multiple positions, and also have a knack for snagging rebounds.

Wilson in particular lauded the play of Edwin Gutierrez over the summer, as he went from a first-year player on the JV team last year to earning a starting varsity spot.

"His energy is contagious," Wilson said. "We played so much better defensively this summer, just because he's out there. He communicates well, he's quick, he's got a great motor, and you can see his teammates feeding off that."

Guys with energy are a welcome sight to a team that struggled at times last season to stay positive through games that got away from them. With five seniors on this year's team, almost all of whom saw the court a fair amount last season, they've heeded their coach's plea to instill better chemistry.

"I think the leadership is already better this year," Basl said. "Last year, frankly, they were the wrong type of leaders. They were saying the wrong things at the wrong times. This year, I feel like it's way better."

Since they began their high school careers, and since Wilson took over as head coach two years ago, the Bulldogs have made it a goal each year to come away with at least one Columbia Basin Conference win, with the hope that it would propel them into the league tournament at the end of the regular season.

While they have been unable to accomplish that goal in the past three seasons, Culver has the same idea in mind this season, in what will be their last in the CBC before moving to the Central Valley League in the fall of 2018.

It remains to be seen what the CBC will look like this season, especially since Stanfield, last year's league champion and second-place team at the 2A state tournament, has graduated a large portion of its roster.

Regardless of how it shakes out, the Bulldogs believe they have the team to outdo the past few.

The Bulldogs begin the season vs. La Pine JV on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Will Denner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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@MadrasSports, @WillCDenner

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