Some might say this season was a tough one for the Paris varsity boys basketball team.
If that's true then for head coach Wade Billington it was absolutely heartbreaking because he had the best seat in the house night after night as the squad nobody loved more than him hustled like crazy up and down the court just to end up falling short 18 of the 24 times they took the court.
"Preseason expectations were out the window when we lost key players to injuries. We played seven games this season with our full roster, minus a couple players who just couldn't play due to injuries, and through those seven we went 4-3," Billington said. "Had we been healthy to start I think we would have put together a nice season. Postseason was definitely disappointing. We lost to a really good Louisiana squad but I really felt we under performed."
For the season the Coyotes finished with a record of 6-18 overall. The team also tied for fourth in the Lewis and Clark Conference with a record of 3-5 overall.
"I am, however, very pleased with our Freshmen and Sophomores, who had to step in a play a large amount of varsity minutes throughout the season," Billington said. "We could have competed better in the conference but we were banged up for half our games. We played four conference games with the full roster and went 3-1 through those games. I would like to think if we are healthy all year we pick up five maybe six wins in our conference."
One game that got away from Paris early was a loss on Dec. 16 to North Callaway at Mexico during the six game Gary Filbery Classic. Specifically, maybe it was the early start time or the neutral court, but the Thunderbird's had been off their game all year long up to that point, but their entire season changed when they took a chance on trying to impose their will on the Coyotes.
"We actually return a lot of guys with varsity experience. While we were definitely up and down this year we were able to get a lot of young guys a lot of playing time," said Billington. "We lose Zack (Rentschler) and Brett (Miller) who are two starters on this year's team but we return guys who should be key contributors this coming season."
Next year the Coyotes likely will have just one senior, Adam Forest. That'll make the core of this team 2018-19 juniors Blake Turner, Aidan Mitchell, Konnor Heitmeyer and Ryan Ragsdale.
"The best part of the campaign really was getting to build younger players for the future and seeing that we were a competitive team and capable of winning games when healthy," Billington said. "I'm really pleased with how the boys adjusted to the high's and low's of the season."
What Billington and assistant coach Doug Turner were really working on this year was a half-dozen freshmen who could emerge as something special one day. This includes Brock Miller, Devon Miller, Reese Barton, Ethan Chapman, Laken Edwards and Chris Ebbesmeyer.
"I think at the same time those two things were probably the worst. It's difficult for everyone involved when you aren't always sure which players are going to be on the floor with injury or when players will come back. It's always a challenge to get a team to mesh and play well together and when you're constantly looking at different personnel like we did this year it made it even more challenging."