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Team awards were announced at the Winter Sports Awards Program Monday at Morris Area High School. Girls’ basketball awards were presented to (from left) MaKenzie Smith - Defensive MVP, Beth Holland - Hustle Award, Tracy Meichsner - Tiger Spirit Award, and Katie Holzheimer - Offensive MVP.

Hard work pays off for Tiger girls

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The Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta girls’ basketball team recorded 17 wins during the 2012-2013 season. During the previous two seasons, the Tigers had a combined 17 wins. Of the Tigers’ 10 losses this season, a couple of them were very close, including the loss to Milbank with a last-second basket.

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After last season, coach Dale Henrich said his team wanted to know how they could improve.

“I gave them an opportunity to get better,” he said.

That opportunity came in the form of summer practices and tournaments. After a lot of time in the gym and successful tourneys, the girls came back stronger and in better shape.

Those girls included four seniors, Katie Holzheimer, MaKenzie Smith, Courtney Gades and Cassey Hickman.

Holzheimer began playing for Henrich as a sophomore.

“Her speed has been a huge asset,” said Henrich. “She’s an impossible player to guard.”

Henrich relied on Holzheimer to lead the team.

“She was the person on the floor calling the defense.”

Holzheimer set a new team record for career three-point baskets made. She finishes her Tiger career with 125 three-point shots, breaking Allison Donovan’s record of 109. She also tops the list for most single-season three-point baskets made with 56, breaking her own record of 53 she set as a junior. Holzheimer also set a Tiger record for best single-season free-throw percentage with 81. She is the first Tiger to top 80 percent at the free-throw line. Holzheimer also moved into the No. 4 spot in all-time scoring with 720 points. She is tied for fifth in steals with 157.

Smith has been a versatile player for the Tigers, taking a role both inside and outside. When Holzheimer was injured, Henrich moved Smith to fill in. When Tracy Meichsner was injured, Smith was again called on to fill that position.

“If she wouldn’t have been that good, I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” explained Henrich. “She does them all well.

“When you put her on top of the press, she forces people to make bad decisions.”

Smith also makes the Tiger record books. She is No. 2 in the career blocks category with 87, No. 6 with 323 rebounds, and No. 17 in scoring with 449. For a single-season Smith is fourth in rebounding with 190. She is fourth and fifth in blocks with 45 as a senior and 42 as a junior.

Courtney Gades, although not a starter for the Tigers, worked hard in practice.

“That says a lot,” said Henrich. “When she did get to play, she played pretty well.”

After suffering several injuries as a junior, Cassey Hickman’s senior season ended early due to an injury.

“She also worked hard in practice.”

Henrich said it will be impossible to replace these players, but he has a core group with varsity experience coming back to help make the transition as smooth as possible. He’s already looking forward to next season.

“I love doing what I’m doing.”

Besides the leadership from his four seniors, Henrich also credits his assistants for the successful season.

Jim Greenwaldt is the B-squad coach and Henrich’s assistant. Henrich said he appreciates the knowledge that Greenwaldt brings with him.

“It’s fun to coach with someone like him,” said Henrich.

Caleb Greene is the other varsity assistant and coaches the C squad.

“He does an excellent job of getting everyone together and works them hard.”

Don Goracke volunteered to help out again this past season.

“You hope he’s around forever,” said Henrich. “He’s got good ideas and stories and is a good, calming factor.”

Henrich also mentioned the elementary and junior high coaches that work with the kids before they reach the varsity level.

“They’re the unsung heroes,” said Henrich.

Three Tigers were recognized by the West Central Conference during the season by being named Performers of the Week. They are Katie Holzheimer, Tracy Meichsner, and MaKenzie Smith.

Katie Holzheimer, Tracy Meichsner, and MaKenzie Smith were named to the All-West Central Conference team. Beth Holland received an honorable mention.

The Tigers received the Academic Gold Award from the Minnesota Girls’ Basketball Coaches’ Association with a team GPA of 3.889.

Three seniors were named to the Academic All-State team. They are Courtney Gades, Katie Holzheimer, and MaKenzie Smith.

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