They shot hoops together for about a decade, and it shows.
With an 18-0 record, the Easton Valley River Hawks boys basketball team strives for perfection every time they take the court. The team is No. 1 in Class 1A — the best record EV Coach Dan Beck has recorded since about 1981, he said, and he has coached in Preston for more than four decades.
2020 is the first year in school history that the Easton Valley River Hawks have been ranked No. 1. (Preston and East Central school districts combined to form Easton Valley in 2013.)
This team has a strong senior contingent with nine seniors. Four of those seniors are starters. Cade Jargo and Nate Trenkamp broke into the starting lineup 10 games into their sophomore year. Jargo and Trenkamp have started 46 varsity basketball games together.
This group of nine has played together since the third grade. Jargo’s dad, Doug Jargo, was the boys’ coach until they entered seventh grade.
“They would go to six or seven tournaments a year, winning some tournaments and being competitive in most,” Doug Jargo said. “Some of the kids who were not that talented in third grade put in the work so they can contribute once they got to high school.”
Trenkamp has been playing basketball since about second grade; it’s one of his favorite sports. He still makes time during the summer to shoot baskets after baseball or summer football.
Trenkamp attributes his team’s success to chemistry and unselfishness. “We play well together and just know where everyone is going to be on the floor.”
Jessen Weber has been playing basketball since third grade. He now averages 19.6 points.
“We’ve been playing together for about 10 years now, and the key to this year’s team is chemistry and working hard to get open shots,” said Weber, who goes to the park almost every day to shoot baskets for about two hours in the summer.
Kaleb Cornilsen has been playing basketball since he was 5 years old and said playing together for so long with his teammates has been the key to success.
“We just know what and where our teammates are going to be. It makes it seem easy once we get on the court,” Cornilsen said. He leads the team in scoring, averaging 20.7 points a game.
He credited this team’s success with having an inside game and “when our opponent tries to take that away, we have three shooters that can hit the outside shots.”
Hunter Holdgrafer started playing basketball in second grade, playing in multiple leagues and some weekend tournaments. Fifteen classmates played together that year.
“We still have nine out our senior year,” he noted.
Holdgrafer likes playing basketball because he plays with his friends and “it is cool to work together as a team and work hard in the off-season and at practice to see the success on the court with wins. During the summer we try to get together to lift weights and get together a couple times a week scrimmage against each other,” he said.
Holdgrafer leads the team in taking charges, a statistic that is no longer recorded at the state level. Holdgrafer’s commitment to take a charge excites Coach Beck because few players are willing to stand in the offensive line and risk getting hit on the hope of drawing the charging foul.
Cade Jargo also started playing basketball in second grade and said basketball has always been his favorite sport.
“It came easy to me when I was little and I just stuck with it,” Jargo said. Going into his freshman year, “I was outside shooting all the time.”
Jargo averages 12.3 points per game, while Trenkamp comes in with an average of 9.4 points a game.
Jargo and Trenkamp lead the team in assists with 93 and 88, respectively.
The key to this year’s team success is unselfishness and passing the ball to each other, Jargo said. “If one person is not hitting shots, we have four other people who can make the play.
“We are not a good rebounding team, but we work on that in practice,” Jargo added.
A small change in position has made a big change in the River Hawks’ offense.
Jargo and Trenkamp switched positions this season with no questions asked. Trenkamp moved into the point guard slot and Jargo became the off guard. It gets Jargo out to start the fast break sooner, which causes match-up problems for most teams.
Putting Trenkamp at point guard makes him the quarterback on the court. It’s a slot Trenkamp is right at home with since he was the quarterback of the EV football team last fall. Trenkamp’s scoring average is down this year from last year, but he doesn’t complain about that. He cares about one thing — the team winning, he said.
A lack of turnovers is another key to EV’s success this season. The ball is in Trenkamp’s hands most of the time, and he only turned the ball over 14 times in 15 games. His turnover-to-assist ratio is 14-88, but it’s not just Trenkamp who maintains ball control. Overall, Easton Valley’s five starters have only 49 combined turnovers in 15 games. That comes out to about 3.27 turnovers a game. They hold onto the ball, giving them more opportunity to shoot, score, and win.