An untimely finger injury at practice Thursday cost the Gibault Hawks the services of leading scorer and rebounder Wes Degener for the remainder of the season.
With the playoffs not far away, the Hawks (18-5) must deal with new roles for some players and added playing time for others.
"It's going to negatively impact you to some degree because you lost an awfully good player and an awfully good athlete," Gibault coach Dennis Rueter said of Degener, who was averaging 12.9 points and 5.1 rebounds before undergoing surgery to repair a fractured ring finger on his right hand. "We've got several kids that are somewhat comparable, but he's probably our best player. We don't have to make big changes in the way we play, that's the big thing.
"We're just going to have to realize we have less room for error now."
Rueter said Degener's athleticism helped create offense even from the defensive end.
"It seemed like once or twice a game he'd get a steal and a layup," Rueter said. "Maybe somebody else steps up and starts to do a little bit more of that. We still have good enough pieces to be good, but we can't afford to have a couple guys not ready to play."
Gibault was fourth in the latest Class 1A state rankings, but is in the same regional as sixth-ranked Okawville.
Senior Matt Schreder led the Hawks with 19 points Friday in a 66-64 home loss to Madison. Senior guard Brendan McFarland scored nearly half of Gibault's points in a 43-35 victory over rival Columbia on Saturday, finishing with 20 to exploit the Eagles' defense.
Rueter thinks his team still has good offensive balance and experience led by Schreder (11.3 ppg), McFarland (8.7 ppg), Nick Row (8.4 ppg) and Mitch Meyer (6.3 ppg). Taking on expanded roles without Degener in the lineup are Jacob Weiler, Zach Neff and Sam Toal.
"Somebody else is just going to have to step up," Rueter said. "We had eight guys playing and now you're down to seven. I don't think our kids panicked or got excited (about the injury), but we knew it was going to be tough."