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PREP NOTEBOOK: Injury dampens Crater's Hawaii trip

Team-bonding trip to Hawaii, what possibly could go wrong?

For the Crater boys basketball team, the answer to that is still pending, but it wasn’t all sunshine, beaches and luaus during their four-day trip to Honolulu this past weekend.

Coming off their best season in school history, the Comets entertained high hopes yet again this season as they took to Hawaii to open their season. But only two minutes into their first game Friday, Crater now finds itself scrambling a bit after starting point guard Jayden Vranes went down to injury in a tournament game against host Hawaii Baptist.

“I turned the ball over and then it was a fastbreak,” Vranes said Monday during a layover in San Francisco. “I blocked the guy off the backboard and I landed funny on my wrist.”

“He kind of took my legs out,” added the 16-year-old junior. “He kind of flailed his legs and I just landed flat. I tried to brace myself and twisted it weird and hurt it.”

Needless to say, the tenor of the trip changed for Crater head coach Chris Schmerbach in those fateful seconds.

“It was a great trip until the first two minutes of the first game,” said Schmerbach. “Then it was like, ‘OK, now that changes things a little bit.’”

Vranes is one of two returning starters from a Crater team that advanced to the Class 5A state semifinals for the first time last season and finished in fifth place with a 25-3 record. The 5-foot-11 standout averaged 8.2 points, 5.6 assists and 3.0 steals last year.

Initially, Vranes was believed to have broken his right wrist but X-rays later left that diagnosis in doubt.

“The trainer that saw him right away was really sure he thought it was broken,” said Schmerbach, “and the way he fell, when you watched it on film and how he immediately went over to the bench, I was pretty sure at least that it was, too.”

“But we’re still holding out hope,” added the coach. “They couldn’t see a fracture so they said it could possibly be broken in the growth plate or it could possibly be a really severe sprain. They’re going to X-ray him again when we get back this week to see kind of where he’s at, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Stuck in a brace isn’t the way Vranes saw his trip to Hawaii going when the Comets left Central Point a few days ago, but he admits it could be worse.

“It was the opening game and first couple minutes and it kind of hurt my vacation,” said Vranes. “I wasn’t able to do the things I wanted to do so it was rough, but I made it through it.”

“I thought it was going to be a lot worse,” he added, “but it’s gotten a little better over the past few days. I should come back better than before.”

Schmerbach is hoping the same thing for his team, opting to look at this setback as just a bump in the road. If it turns out to be a severe sprain, the Comets are likely looking at being without Vranes for two weeks instead of four to six weeks.

“It affects us quite a bit,” said the coach. “(Jayden’s) run the point for us for two years and he just does so much for us offensively and defensively with how we like to play, running up and down the floor and doing a lot of screen-and-roll stuff with him. We’ve had to shift things a little bit.”

“We’re not taking it as a totally negative thing,” added Schmerbach. “It will allow some of the younger guys to develop and share some of the roles he handles. If and when we do get him back, hopefully we’ll be better for it because some guys will have more experience and gone through tough games and competed in those roles.”

In the immediate aftermath of Vranes’ injury, Crater utilized 6-10 standout Nate Bittle to help with the ballhandling chores while sophomore Hunter Chubb filled Vranes’ starting spot, joining Bittle, Kruger Edwards, Nathan Horton and Nathan Johnson.

“Nate’s a really good ballhandler and a tough matchup in any position so that helps,” said Schmerbach.

Sophomores Trevor Jaasko, Blake Eaton and Braydon Ray join senior post Garrett Dance in helping take the pressure off the starting bunch.

With Vranes being left-handed and the injury coming to his right wrist, that should allow for him to stay connected with the game during his hiatus. As if his injury wasn’t enough, the Comets also suffered a setback during a snorkeling trip — they also toured Pearl Harbor during their stay — when Dance cut his foot on coral and had to get stitches.

All in all, the trip could have been better for Crater, which won its opener and lost Game 2, but Schmerbach is keeping a positive attitude about it all.

“That’s basketball,” he said. “We were pretty fortunate last year not to have any of that stuff happen, and if you look around that stuff happens all the time. You’ve got to weather the storm and get others ready and just adjust the team to fit the strengths of what you can do.

“Right now we’re kind of doing it on the fly, so it will be nice to get a couple practices in in preparation for Mazama on Friday and Henley on Saturday before we start league play.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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