An eighth-grader and freshman give hope to strong future for girls basketball
St. Louis Park girls basketball (11-16) closed out the regular season on a strong note, winning 4-of-5 games including a 72-66 win over Bloomington Jefferson on Feb. 17 followed by a 51-46 over Blake six days later and ended the regular season with a 50-48 win at crosstown-rival Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Feb. 24.
“We were pumped,” coach Brian Massie said as they closed out the conference season with a 6-8 record, tying Jefferson for fifth place. “Our confidence was up and we were realizing that if we played together we’ve got a chance (to win) no matter who we were playing.”
A reward for the strong finish came in the form of a Section 6-AAAA opening round matchup against Metro West Conference champion Robbinsdale Cooper.
The Hawks won both regular season meetings and the section meeting was no different with Cooper scoring a 76-52 win on March 1.
“We knew exactly what they were good at, their strengths and weaknesses and that we needed to slow them down on offense – keep them out of the paint and shoot 3s,” Massie said while he wanted to see the Orioles offense do the opposite – attack the paint and sprint back on defense. “The toughest thing about coaching and being part of a team is trusting in each other both as coaches and players but that was the biggest difference for us. The skill was always there but it came down to getting them to believe and trust in each other.”
Senior captain Steph Reuter emerged as a leader on the floor and off as the season progressed which helped raise the level of trust on the squad.
“She proved how valuable she was in the section game,” Massie said as Reuter had 13 points against Cooper. “She really was the conduit between the girls and the coaching staff and helping get everyone to buy-in.”
Reuter was named to the Metro West Conference All-Academic Team.
Orioles eighth-grader Kendal Coley used the season to establish herself as a consistent varsity player at such a young age. She had 19 points in the first meeting with Cooper but was held to six points in the rematch in St. Louis Park and seven points in the section meeting.
“She’s grown a lot,” Massie said about Coley who received All-Conference Honorable Mention honors. “She’s really picked up the mental aspect of the game and has some skills, especially for an eighth grader.”
Coley added more game-experience through playing time at the lower high school levels to add more game-speed reps. “She really improved in knowing where the defender was at all times on the offensive side.”
Coley had a season-high 27 points in the win over Jefferson hitting 7-of-11 3-pointers, 15 points against Blake and 16 points against Benilde.
Freshman Shayla Miller was the lone All-Conference honoree for the Orioles averaging 10.4 points on the season while amassing a .332 field goal percentage. She scored in double digits 14 times over 26 games scoring a season-high 24 points in a 71-57 victory over Eagan on Dec. 28. She also averaged 5.5 rebounds per game, blocked 25 shots, had 26 steals, 49 assists and 41 turnovers during the regular season.
Park had four seniors on the team this season, Katera Phillips, Reuter, Yusra Jara and Hannah Ellingson meaning the squad returns a lot of its roster next season including Miller and Coley along with junior guards Kamil Mayfield, Olivia Massie and Dylisi Sheffield and sophomore guards Lindsay Olson, Sophie Olmen and freshman guard Jordyn Turek. Joelle Sheffield was an eighth grader at center and junior Grace Wolgemuth saw time as a forward.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s (10-17) closed out its season in the Section 6-AAAA semifinals with a 64-41 loss at No. 2 seed Orono Saturday. Sixth-seeded Benilde opned section play with an upset at No. 3 Delano on Feb. 28 thanks to three players scoring in double digits while the defense held the Tigers in check. The Red Knights led 24-15 at the break and pushed the pace in the second half as sophomores led the way with Cheyanne Carter’s 14 points, Isabel Fleming’s 13 points and Aiana Whitfield’s 12 points.
On Saturday it was senior guard Skylar Kosek and Whitfield leading the Red Knights with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Orono senior guard Tori Andrew had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Contact Jason Olson at [email protected]