Looking back on the 2011-2012 boys basketball season, and one thing stands out.
The MICDS Rams probably pulled off the surprise of the season, by winning the Metro League conference championship.
With rivals Lutheran North and John Burroughs both boasting star-studded rosters, hardly anyone would've guessed (without already knowing) that it was MICDS that won the conference title last year.
"I think some people probably missed that," MICDS head coach Matt Hixenbaugh said. "But yeah, we had a good run. We beat Lutheran North twice in two close ballgames. We don't really set out to win conference titles, but it is nice to get that reward for all the hard work we put into it."
And the Rams did it as a true "team", with several players stepping up and making key plays at key moments throughout the season.
This year though, with all three senior leaders and its top scorer gone, MICDS will have to rely more on its best players to come through in the clutch.
"I like this group we have," Hixenbaugh said. "I think we're more of a basketball team, if that makes sense. Last year, we kind of had a bunch of great athletes that just happened to play basketball. This year, I think these guys are more basketball players, and I think that will be a benefit for us as we go along."
One thing the Rams will have on their side this year, is great size on the frontline, with 6'6 senior Will Morehead, 6'6 junior Robin Thompson, and 6'5 junior Trey Baur all capable of controlling the paint when called upon to do so.
Thompson is a player many local experts think could have a big year, after a fantastic season of summer ball, that's earned him considerable interest among college recruiters nationwide.
In the backcourt, seniors Trey Pettus and Jimmy DesPain give the Rams a pair of veteran ball-handlers and shooters that run the show and make sure MICDS is always in the right look.
"One thing about us, is our guys are kind of interchangeable," Hixenbaugh said. "Everybody can do lots of different things. And I like that a lot. I think it's going to make it tough on other teams to defend us."
The Rams will certainly be tested with a strong, almost fearsome schedule, that features appearances in two superb out-of-town tournaments in Illinois and Tennessee, as well as a game in the Coaches v. Cancer Shootout at Scottrade Center against Saint Louis University High, and of course, the always entertaining MICDS Holiday Tournament.
"I think we play a great schedule," Hixenbaugh said. "We like to have some challenges in there, and play some of the top teams. It's the only way to get yourself ready for districts and the state tournament. More often than not, the team we're playing is going to be good too. It's going to be a fun year."
The season will begin officially for MICDS on Tuesday, November 20, when the Rams will play the host school, Washington (IL), in the Tournament of Champions event, which is recognized nationally as one of the best season-opening high school basketball showcases in the country.
MICDS will play four games in Illinois in five days, with matchups against Peoria Notre Dame, South Miami, and an opponent yet to be determined that weekend.
"That's probably going to be our four toughest games of the year, and we get them all right in a row to start the year," Hixenbaugh said. "We're going to find out a lot about ourselves right away, that's for sure."
The Rams will make their first local appearance on December 4, when they'll play at Clayton, before finally hosting their own home opener at the McDonnell Gymnasium, against Principia on December 11.
The Rams will have just 10 home games this season, with most of the season spent traveling around to take on many of the region's best small-school basketball programs.
"I kind of like having so many road games," Morehead said. "It'll be more of a challenge, but it'll allow us to become more together as a team. We'll have to be more mentally prepared to play every night. It'll be fun."
2012-2013 MICDS Rams Boys Basketball Schedule
Nov. 20 vs. Washington (IL) 7 p.m.
Nov. 21 vs. Peoria Notre Dame 4:30 p.m.
Nov. 23 vs. South Miami 7 p.m.
Nov. 24 TBA @ Washington, IL TBA
Dec. 4 at Clayton 7 p.m.
Dec. 11 PRINCIPIA 7 p.m.
Dec. 14 vs. Montgomery Bell Academy (TN) 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 15 Univ. School of Nashville (TN) 4:30 p.m.
Dec. 21-29 MICDS HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT TBA
Jan. 4 at Lutheran South 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 8 vs. PRIORY 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 vs. JOHN BURROUGHS 8 p.m.
Jan. 15 at Lutheran North 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 vs. WESTMINTER CHRISTIAN 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 25 at Principia 8:30 p.m.
Jan. 29 vs. LUTHERAN SOUTH 7 p.m.
Jan. 31 vs. SLUH Coaches v. Cancer @ Scottrade 11:30 a.m.
Feb. 1 vs. Priory @ Villa Duchesne 8:30 p.m.
Feb. 5 at Westminster Christian 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 vs. LUTHERAN NORTH 8:30 p.m.
Feb. 15 vs. John Burroughs @ Wash. Univ. 8 p.m.
Feb. 19 at Chaminade 6 p.m.
Feb. 21 at St. Mary's 6:45 p.m.
Feb. 25-Mar. 2 MSHSAA Districts TBA
Mar. 6 MSHSAA Sectionals TBA
Mar. 9 MSHSAA Quarterfinals TBA
Mar. 14 MSHSAA Semifinals TBA
Mar. 16 MSHSAA Championship TBA
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS