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DeGroot takes over as Falcon boys coach

Florence’s Brent Stroppel drives past Arlee’s Gregg Whitesell as teammate Trevyn Wood looks on. Jean Schurman photo.

Florence’s Brent Stroppel drives past Arlee’s Gregg Whitesell as teammate Trevyn Wood looks on. Jean Schurman photo.

It’s not as if Caleb DeGroot is not familiar with Florence Falcon basketball. The new coach of the Falcons played in the gym many times when he was a student at Missoula Loyola. The rivalry between the two schools can be intense at times but DeGroot doesn’t think about that now. These days he is immersed in learning the ropes as a first year coach.
“I don’t even think of myself as a Ram anymore,” he said. “I’m more of a (UM Western) Bulldog.”
After graduating in 2009 from Loyola, he went to Caroll College for a year. He then transferred to New Hope Christian College in Eugene, Oregon. That still wasn’t a fit for him so he transferred to Western where he played football for four years and basketball for a year. Although he isn’t currently teaching at Florence, he is hoping to next year. He is currently working at Costco. He and his girlfriend of eight years are new parents to a four-month-old baby boy.
Joining DeGroot on the bench are three other first year coaches, who all also played college ball. Drew Baldry is the junior varsity coach. He is originally from Scoby, Montana. Jake Owsley, who hales from Bozeman, is the freshman coach. Zack Smith is the 8th Grade coach and will be joining the others when he can. DeGroot is hoping to initiate a program in the lower grades in the coming years and is starting with the 8th Grade.
The Falcons have only one returning starter, Marcus Zeiler, a junior. The other ones to watch this year are Cody Liles, a 6’2” senior, Brent Stroppel, a 6’2” junior, and Ethan Stensrud, a 6’3” senior and Dillon Christopherson, a 6’2” junior. DeGroot is changing the offense and defense they have been running so there is a bit of a learning curve, for the coach and the players. He hopes to run a ‘shuffle’ type offense. On defense he is planning on pressuring the ball.
However Friday night’s opener against the Arlee Warriors didn’t go exactly according to plan. The Warriors are last year’s runner up in Class C basketball and run an up-tempo game.
“Arlee is a tough team to open up against,” said DeGroot. “They’re good. And if you play their pace, they’ll hurt you, smash you in the mouth, just like they did tonight.”
Arlee opened up running hard and quickly put points on the board. Florence may have had a case of nerves because they had a difficult time making their shots. At the end of the first quarter, Florence had only made four points and trailed by 18. Although Florence made a few runs at Arlee, they couldn’t slow the Warriors down and lost, 76-61.
Arlee 76, Florence 61
Florence – Marcus Zeiler 23, Trevyn Wood 2, Ethan Stensrud 12, Brent Stroppel 11, Cody Liles 8, Dillon Christopherson 3, Carson Katen 2.
Arlee – Will Mesteth 19, Phillip Malatare 19, Colt Brazill 1, Tyler Tanner 19, Greg Whitesell 9, Alex Moran 5, Lane Schall 2, Isaac Fisher 2.

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