The Minneola Wildcats boys basketball team takes on the Pawnee Heights Tigers Friday night.

The Tigers are 5-0 and, at 1-4, the Wildcats have had a rough road so far this season.

“It’s been a little rough at times, but for the most part I see improvement every game,” Minneola head boys basketball coach James Temaat said. “They’re learning as we go along. Some of us learn from mistakes, but they’re learning, and we’re getting a lot better actually.”

The team has lost four straight after opening the season with a win against Cunningham, the last two of which have come against Satanta. The first, which came last Saturday in the teams’ final games in the Cimarron Invitational, was by 40 as the team fell 70-30.

Tuesday, however, when the teams played again, the Wildcats held their own better, Temaat said. In Tuesday’s game, the Wildcats got behind by 15 but lost by the same total, having matched Satanta point-for-point in the second half. The final score of that game was 49-34.

The team, which returned no starters from last season, didn’t give up in Tuesday’s game despite falling behind.

“Our defense was so much better last night,” Temaat said. “We took care of the ball a lot better and (I) just saw a lot of good things even though we lost but we still saw a lot of good things.”

For a young team, it can be easy to give up when things don’t go their way. That isn’t the case with this particular group of kids.

“That’s one honestly special thing about these kids they don’t give up,” Temaat said. “They work hard always, I mean there is no quit in them. This is probably the hardest-working group of boys I’ve had. They just work and they just never give up,  they keep scrapping, and they keep just clawing.”

That, Temaat said, makes him sure the team is going to start winning games soon. The team has played some tough competition so far but the team has a chance to really start clicking soon, and could surprise some teams.

Although their next opponent is 5-0, Temaat said he expects the Wildcats will compete in the game, especially if the players keep improving.

“I really do like how we match up,” Temaat said. “They’re gonna be kind of a lot like us. They’re about the same build, there’s not a lot of kids on their team but they work hard. So I think it’s gonna be a fun game Friday.”

So far, Temaat said the coaching staff is stressing the idea of good defense to the team.

“I am all about defense,” Temaat said. “Offense, my opinion, it’ll take care of itself, (if) we keep playing the right defense we’ll score points. And we’re starting  to get that.”

That was particularly evident Tuesday night.

“We (Tuesday night) played the best defense of the year even though we did lose, but Satanta’s a very good team and we worked hard,” Temaat said. “We were talking on defense, we were coming in taking charges, we boxed-out better than we have all year, so I’m pleased with our defense as of late. We’re working hard, and we work hard at practice and the kids are finally starting I think to get it.”

The Minneola Wildcats boys basketball team takes on the Pawnee Heights Tigers at Minneola High School at 8 p.m. Friday night.