Tiger girls short season surprised many
The Morris Area / Chokio-Alberta girls basketball program ended its season on a sour note, getting upset by the No. 5 seed Minnewaska in the first round of Section 6AA playoff action. The Tigers ended the season 16-10 and finished third in the conference with a 12-3 conference record.
“Expectations were a lot higher than that,” head coach Dale Henrich said. “There were games that we let get away from us and we shouldn’t have. We lost two games in overtime, lost two games by two, and then that Breckenridge fiasco where you give up 50 points in the second half… Those are five games you’d look at as getting back, so the expectation was that those were games we shouldn’t have lost.”
It would have been an entire different ball game if the Tigers won just one or two of those close games. If the Tigers ended up winning the game against Montevideo instead of letting it go into overtime and losing, they would have ended up with a share of the conference title with Sauk Centre, which would have meant instead of two all conference members, the Tigers would have probably got three, Henrich explained.
“I fully expected at the beginning of the season to have a 20 win record, and it was do-able. We should have won 21 games before playoffs even started.” Henrich said.
With a 7-5 section record, the Tigers hosted the first round of playoffs at No. 4 seed playing fifth seeded Minnewaska. The Tigers beat Minnewaska twice with ease during the regular season. Coach Henrich told the girls beforehand if they played together as a team, they should win, but if they did something else, they were going to get crushed… And that’s exactly what happened.
“As a coach, as much as you want to dictate what happens, the players are still playing. It was disappointing to watch us finish the season that way, and I think fans would agree that it was disappointing to watch,” Henrich said.
“At the same time, it was kind of what I thought I would see and I hate saying that, but with the way the season went and there were other issues surrounding what would have been second playoff game… At some point you just aren’t playing anymore.”
The Tigers graduated five seniors from the basketball team this season: captain Abbie Olson, captain Nicole Strobel, Kaitlin Vogel, Rebekah Aanerud, and Beth Holland.
“Our captains did well, our seniors really were the focus of the season.”
Abbie Olson was the defensive MVP and made the all subsection team this year, ending the season with 151 points, 118 rebounds, and 38 steals – a shocking stat for a low post player.
“She was a kid that didn’t take a lot of stuff from other girls on the court, she went out and worked hard and played well. There were some games this season where she just stepped up and took over the game and that’s what you want to see as a coach,” Henrich said. “She just wanted to play ball and get better and she made the kids around her a lot better.”
Nicole Strobel was the other captain for the Tigers this season– a quiet leader said Henrich. Strobel ended the year with 92 points, 38 assists, and 82 rebounds.
“She’s been outsized as a post her entire life, she works hard, but physically everyone is just bigger than she is, so in the absence of Tracy this year she was able to move outside and play some wing for us. She kind of took the role of utility player this season from going post to guard, playing where ever we needed her but did a really nice job.”
Kaitlin Vogel ended the season with 85 points, 34 assists, 112 rebounds, and 19 blocks.
“Kaitlin was strong on the boards, really played well, there were games where she would come in at the end of the game and contribute really well. She was another big player in size as far as the post goes.”
Rebekah Aanerud ended her senior season with 57 points and 29 rebounds, and at the MA/C-A sports banquet, Aanerud received the Hustle Award.
“She didn’t see the floor all that much, but when she did she was constantly hustling, and she really played hard in practice and made everybody step up and work hard offensively. She was our hustler award winner solely for that reason.”
Beth Holland was the offensive MVP for the Tigers this year, ending with a career 985 points–second highest in MA/C-A scoring history since its inception in 1994. This season she contributed 357 points, 68 assists, 61 rebounds, and 70 steals for the Tigers and was a honorable mention for the West Central Tribune All Area team.
“She played four years for me on varsity, all conference honorable mention two years then all conference this year. She was very difficult to guard off the drive, and that was one of her big contributions this season.”
Next year will be difficult losing five players that helped mold the chemical makeup of this years 16-10 team, but Henrich is positive about his returning players and those coming up from B-squad who went 23-1 this season.
“Every year you lose an awful lot, you lose kids that will go out and score points for you, you lose kids that communicate on the court, not only losing the athlete, but the makeup of the team changes drastically,” Henrich said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t ever replace those kids, you just try to figure out how those other kids fit in. Our program itself is fine. We have a lot of kids wanting to play, it’s just a matter of learning to play together and finding that right mix of kids, again.”
The Tigers have a good varsity group coming back next year, and a few younger kids that have potential to be moved up to varsity, depending on how much offseason work they put in.
Lacee Maanum, Becca Holland, and Lauren Reimers are three that saw the court a lot this season, plus Tracy Meichsner will hopefully be back, too.
“If you look into the future, the program is fine. We have a lot of kids in place that are going to be looking for playing time. It just comes down to how much time that they want to spend getting better.”