FESTUS, Mo. — After a tough finish last season to cap off 2020, the Festus Tigers varsity basketball team returned with the same roster, but on a different level.
The Tigers finished the 2019-2020 season with a 12-14 record, but the numbers look entirely different in 2021.
Festus is 16-5 heading into the team’s Friday matchup with Fox High School, who has won five straight games themselves.
Festus varsity basketball coach Jason Therrell said experience has been key.
“That’s really made my job easy this year,” Therrell said. “Because the kids have really adjusted to whatever the situation is.”
The Festus roster is split this year between upperclassmen and underclassmen players. Although the Tigers have four seniors and seven juniors on the team, it’s a handful of younger players making the difference, with one in particular.
Festus sophomore Arhmad Branch has scored 296 points since December and has averaged more than 15 points per game. This kind of contribution alone has made a big difference for the Tigers this year, but he’s not been the only player to step up his game.
Festus junior Cole Rickermann has scored 265 points this season and averages nearly 13 points per game this season as well. Therrell said the combination of Branch and Rickermann has been lethal on the court.
Another difference for the Tigers this season is their improvement defensively. Festus senior Collin Reando has tallied 172 rebounds this year. At 6 feet, 1 inch tall, Reando isn’t the giant on the court, but his aggressive style of play is paying off on the court.
“Our message right now is just to stay with what we’ve been doing well this year,” Therrell said. “And we’ve been playing pretty good defense lately, and we’ve made some nice comebacks in certain games. So hopefully we can just continue with what we’ve been doing well.”
It will be a matchup of two Jefferson County teams on Friday as the Tigers face the Fox Warriors for the first time this season.
Fox heads into the game with a 9-11 record following the Warriors’ 78-38 victory over McCluer South-Berkeley on Thursday.
The Warriors finished with a 7-19 record in 2021, and have improved as well this season.
Fox senior forward Luke Pisoni, junior guard Brendan Moss, and senior guard Myles Richardson lead the way with a combined 665 points this season. All three players average roughly 12 points per game this season.
Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at Festus High School.