AITKIN -- After the resignation of Jon Dale as head coach of the Pequot Lakes Patriots boys' basketball team uncertainty was felt by most players and community members.
That uncertainty is now forgotten as Rad Royer has stepped in as the new head coach and, despite a 64-57 loss to the Aitkin Gobblers in the first round of the Aitkin Quarterbacks Tournament Thursday, the feeling on the team is positive.
"It's working out pretty well." said junior Tony Landecker. "It's good to have a lot of positive coaching right now.
"We'll build upon this. The coach we have right now we've had for many years back when we were little. We play more as a team when we're with him.
"It's different," added Landecker. "It's a whole different style of ball we're playing right now. It's a change. We have a lot more emphasis on team playing."
While the athletic department was finding a new coach, former assistant coach Robert Birkeland led practices until Royer came on board two days ago.
Right away Royer gave the players an assurance that things would get better.
"I told the kids when I came on board that the politics are done," said Royer. "You guys are going to play basketball. If you want to play basketball the game is yours.
"If there are any other politics I'll deal with it."
As for the rest of this season, Royer and the Patriots will start working on a foundation and build from there.
"We're going to work on fundamentals," said Royer. "We're going to build and build and build. We need to do the fundamentals right and we'll grow together.
"We have a good team concept and they want to work hard together. They didn't quit any time during the game. They hustled down to the last second."
Despite the distractions and uncertainty Landecker feels the team will still be competitive down the road.
"I thought tonight we played better as a team then we have in the past," Landecker said. "Against Pine River it was just terrible. The leading scorer had eight points. It was pretty mixed around; I think we're playing a lot better."
One of the sidelights to a good game was the matchup of Pequot's Matt Royer and Aitkin's Adam Holder. Both scored in double figures and were key to getting other players involved.
"He's a good shooter," Holder said of Royer. "I respect his game a lot. He's tough to defend."
Last year Holder was a defensive specialist but this year he's found his range and scoring touch to lead the Gobblers in scoring.
"I've just been taking more of a leadership role," said Holder. "Coming into this year I knew I was the only returning starter. I had to step up my game a little bit, take it to the hole and look to score more often."
Royer finished with 23 points while Holder had 14 for the Gobblers.
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