Area girls basketball: Panthers learning how to play together
Warriors could take the program to a different level
CASS LAKE – Learning how to play together will be one of the tasks of the Cass Lake-Bena girls basketball players. The Panthers return six letterwinners including seniors Justine Jourdain, Mariah O’Brien and Adrienne Cloud. No juniors return but the roster does include sophomore letterwinners Mariah Reyes, Meghan Brun and Tifani Ellis.
“We have some new players on varsity and we have to learn to play together,” said CL-B coach Carl Dugstad. “I hope our seniors and returning letterwinners will step up and become leaders. “At this early point in the year, with so much new material, our kids are learning. I’m not sure how far we can go. I do know that we will get there together.”
In addition to the letter winners, Dugstad expects Cheylynn Rodriguez, Antonia Archambault, Nakita Nicazio, Mariah Briseno, Alexis Needham and Luzy Goggleye to see extended playing time.
“To have a good year we have to improve our rebounding on both ends of the floor but we also must learn to stay focused and mentally tough over the season,” said Dugstad. “We want to play solid team basketball and continue to improve over the course of the season.”
The program at Red Lake has been developing through the years and this winter the Warriors could take the program to a different level. Red Lake opened with convincing wins over Warroad, Hill City and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and coach Randy Holthusen would not be surprised to see that success continue.
“We’re off to a 3-0 start but there’s a long road ahead,” he said. “We would like to win 15 games this season and win the first playoff game in school history. But our overall goal is to improve every day and every game.”
Serving as captains are seniors Faleisha Desjarlait and Amy Benais. The other returning letter winners are senior Taylor Dickenson, juniors Sara Mountain, Aeryn Droulliard and Chelsy Nelson, sophomore Tatianna McClain, freshman Averi Holthusen and eighth grader Grace White.
“This group has played together for four years and everyone on our team has to be a leader, not just one girl,” Holthusen said. “How they approach every game will determine their destiny. If the players dedicate themselves they could be great. This is their team and it always has been.”
The Warriors appear to be strong in the transition game and can hit the long-range shot.
“Because we are very young we are very hungry,” the coach said. “We are very athletic and each player is capable of having a great night. “We lack size and rebounding could be a problem if we don’t box out but with hard work and dedication to school and to athletics, these girls have the talent and the drive to do great things and go great places.”
The Drakes will be led by senior captains Tatum Mistic and Morgan Jung and coach Eric McKeeman expects to make extensive use of his entire roster.
“Our strength is a deep bench and many girls will see playing time,” he said. “But our weakness is that there’s not much experience at the varsity level.”
Jung and Mistic are the lone seniors while the junior class is represented by Madison Liapis, Brooke Mistic, Kristina Napieralski, Cassy Ferdig and Sadie Radke. Sasha Pfannenstein, Michaela Holmgren and Alex Arp are the sophomores while Emma Stelton is a freshman.
“Tatum and Morgan were chosen by the team to be our captains and that shows that they have the respect of our team,” McKeeman said. “They are both key players to our success and lead by example with hard work and hustle."
“As a team our goal is to improve from game to game,” the coach added.
The Wildcats are building for the future as the roster includes no seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, one freshman, a pair of eighth graders and four seventh graders.
“We will be very young with five junior high students suiting for varsity, including two eighth-grade starters,” said Laporte coach Ryan Ferrin.
The roster includes three returning letterwinners – juniors Kim Corson, Jacey Hegg and Amber Baker. Corson and Hegg are the captains.
“Jacey and Kim have been steadily improving this season and I hope they can carry us to a solid finish within the conference and into the playoffs,” Ferrin said. “Our goals are to have overall growth and improvement throughout the season in terms of the team and the program. We want to earn as many wins as possible while developing the skills and abilities in each of our players."
“I look forward to coaching this group of girls and building off each success,” Ferrin continued. “Through hard work and staying disciplined I look forward to the improvement of Laporte girls basketball.”
After winning two of their first three games the Mustangs are hoping to build on that success.
“The players have great work ethics, attitudes and support for one another on and off the court,” said K-N coach Justin Lundin. “They play well as a team and we want to continue to strengthen our team play to give ourselves the best chance of reaching our full potential.”
The Mustangs are captained by seniors Mandy Pula, Shelene Head, Carrie Carrigan and Katey Lutz. Pula is a guard who spearheads the defense while Head can hit from the outside. Carrigan returns as the Northland Conference’s second-leading rebounder while Lutz was the rebounding leader. Lutz also enters the year with more than 900 career points.
Other letter winners include junior Kelly Heck and sophomore Bre Salmonson. Heck was the team’s top scorer a year ago and also could reach the 1,000-point barrier this winter.
“Our team strengths are scoring from the inside and the outside plus rebounding,” Lundin said. “Our defense may be a weakness and we are working on improving that part of the game both individually and as a team.”
The Bears seem to have what it takes to challenge for a trip to the state tournament. They return six former All-Northwoods Conference players and have the experience to do well in the postseason.
“We return six seniors and all have been selected all-conference,” said C-G coach Ross Faldet. “These six seniors are working very hard to lead us to the state tourney.”
That group includes Taylor Faldet, Rebekah Kjolhaug, Brittany Wagner, Jessica Spray, Katie McIntosh and Angela Burgess.
“The seniors are the foundation of this team,” the coach said. “And they will be part of the starting rotation.”
Also expected to see extensive playing time are Ashley Groshong, Esther Kjolhaug, Lauren McIntosh, Harlie Watne, Rachel Gray, Madison Stenzel and Rachel Spray.
“This is a hard-working group that takes care of business on and off the court,” Faldet said. “They all are great students and great role models.”
The Flyers are 2-2 in the early going with wins over Sacred Heart and Waubun.
Bagley returns captains Sean Benson and Kari Skersick plus Hannah Neeland, Jasmin Nelson, Courtney Cosca, Jaysha Pemberton, Bailey Fultz and Samantha Olson.
“Experience is one of our strengths,” said coach Brandon Schwegel. “We did not lose a starter from a year ago.”