By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer

The White Pine High boys’ basketball team saw its season come to an end last Thursday when it fell to Pershing County 61-49 in the first round of the Division III tournament. The Bobcats kept the game close, but saw the game slip away from them in the second half.

“You have to beat the best in order to be the best so I would rather play the No. One seed first than postpone the inevitable,” head coach Paul Johnson said. “We played well and had the lead at the half but in the third quarter, five different Pershing players hit three-pointers that broke the game open in their favor. We unfortunately did not shoot well from three.”

For a young team that had no seniors, this year’s experience could play big dividends in the coming seasons.

“The team played hard but understands that they have work to do in order to improve,” Johnson said. “Although losing in division was painful, I believe the team is motivated to work hard during the off season to change their future. This is the first time since I have been coaching that the players are already talking about next season and their plans to weight train and work in the off season.”

With a season that saw White Pine show both its potential, but also a lack of consistency, the 2013 season was one that, despite its ups and downs, showed a team that never quit and looked to play hard every time they stepped on the floor, despite dealing with numerous injuries throughout the season.

“Our team handled adversity well this year and I believe this adversity has made the team want to work harder,” Johnson said. “I think the team realizes that they are very close to becoming the top team in the north and challenge for the State Championship next year.”

While Johnson is optimistic about next season, White Pine also knows it has work to do in the offseason in order for the Bobcats to become contenders going forward. Johnson stressed dedication to showing up to practices and working on mental toughness as the biggest areas of need for the players to develop.

“We still need to work on our mental toughness because mental toughness is the margin of victory,” Johnson said. “This seemed pretty clear to me in the conference tournament. Teams with mental toughness have a tendency to do whatever it takes to win and make fewer mistakes.”

While White Pine saw its season come to an earlier end than they wanted this year, Johnson said he believes the groundwork is there for White Pine to be one of the teams to beat next season.

“The most motivating thing for my players and I is their potential for next year and their willingness to work offseason to improve,” Johnson said. “I firmly believe that if they choose to put in the effort over the summer, they stand a good chance to be the team to beat.

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