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They enter season ranked 5th in District
By Caroline Downs
When the Honkers girls basketball team takes the floor for the first time Friday night, they’re going to be one of the shortest teams around and playing without the defensive savvy and scoring ability of former leaders Katie King, Kortni Miller and Erika Lemere.
Which may be the reason the 2011-2012 Miss Hoopster North Dakota Basketball Preview has Kenmare ranked fifth in District 12.
That kind of pre-season prediction only motivates the players, according to head coach Jason Schwarz. “We’ve got a lot to accomplish,” he said, “but give us one more thing we’ve got to prove, one more challenge. There’s nothing I like more than to prove somebody wrong.”
And Schwarz believes strongly that this Honkers team is going to surprise a few people. “We’ve got some holes to fill, but we’ve got a good nucleus,” he said, listing seniors Ashley Barnhart and Halie Nelson along with juniors Lexie Munson and Shelby Hass as bringing varsity experience to the new season.
Schwarz continued, “They know my system. They have the playing time, the leadership and the experience at state tournaments in both volleyball and basketball. We’ll look to them to do the bulk of the work.”
As for the fifth starter and players coming off the bench, Schwarz and assistant coach Courtney Seime are carefully watching practices. “Those positions haven’t been established yet,” said Schwarz. “That gives people an opportunity to show what they can or cannot do. It’ll be good competition for those spots.”
He admitted he was excited about the new season and pleased with the way the players were getting themselves into basketball shape and working on the game’s fundamentals. “Our main focus this season is to be better than we were the day before,” he said.
The team’s four seniors laughed as they talked about watching the team come together in the first days of practice and dusting off their basketball skills. “The younger kids are making us work hard,” said Barnhart.
“And we help each other a lot,” added Samantha Fetterhoff.
Nelson was pleased to see 15 girls join the team. “We have some players who are new to us seniors,” she said.
A couple of players have returned to the team after taking a year off from the sport, including senior Caleen Crider. Crider kept stats for the team last season and, according to Nelson, made a promise when the team was practicing on the University of Mary court during the state tournament in March.
“At the time, Mr. Seime wasn’t sure if he was coming back this year as an assistant coach, and Caleen told him if he came back, she would play again,” Nelson said.
Crider, who stands 5’2”, laughed as she recalled the conversation Seime had with her earlier this fall when he reminded her of that promise, then shook her head and grinned as she said her best strategy for the season would be to get the ball into the hands of junior Lexie Munson.
Defense will be key
The new Honkers team has plenty to work on as the season goes along, starting with scoring. “We want to develop some balance in our scoring,” said Schwarz. “We want everybody to provide their share and develop our offense to help each other score.”
Fans will see some new plays on the court this season, beginning with a scenario that allows all the players to rotate through the post position, looking for an easy shot. “It should give us a different way of scoring,” Schwarz said.
As in past years, Kenmare will work to score points from their defense, too. “We like to steal and force turnovers and get the fast break,” said Schwarz.
He expects defense to continue to be one of the Honkers’ strengths on the court. “We’re a team that fights and scraps for everything we get,” he said, “and we’ll hang our hat on defense this year. We like to play man-to-man and we’re good at it, but we may have to play more zone to give our kids some rest.”
He and assistant coach Courtney Seime are looking beyond the four returning varsity players to see which younger players step up their game. “We want to develop the younger, inexperienced kids,” he said, “and find those two or three or four who are going to have to step forward.”
The Honkers seniors agreed with Schwarz about defense. “We’re going to be out-sized,” said Barnhart, “and defense is pretty important when you’re out-sized.”
the district and region
Looking around the district and the region, Schwarz is looking forward to the challenge of playing Bishop Ryan. “They’re ranked number six in the state right now and have the most talented group of kids coming back,” he said.
He also noted Velva’s returning lineup, along with the full court press they like to use. “Then there’s Bottineau, Rugby and Westhope-Newburg,” he said, listing other strong teams in the region. “But there’s nobody in our district that we can’t beat, and there’s nobody in our region we can’t beat. We’ve got some serious motivation.”
Barnhart is looking forward to playing an athletic Glenburn team and, of course, Bishop Ryan. “They’re ranked number one in our district and they have a lot of height,” she said, “and that rivalry we have just makes me want to play them!”
The seniors agreed Bottineau would be a strong region contender, and Crider mentioned Velva. “They always put something together,” she said, “and they have tall people.”
Barnhart, at 5’4”, looked at her and laughed. “Everyone is tall compared to you and me!” she said.
“We know the people we have coming back,” Fetterhoff said, “and we have a pretty good shot at doing well.”
“But none of us have had to play that big of a role before,” added Nelson.
“We have the potential to be competitive in our region,” Barnhart said, “if we don’t get hurt and if we don’t foul out.”
“And if we get some shooters out there!” Nelson finished, laughing.
The Honkers roster
Seniors in their final flight as Honkers include Halie Nelson, Samantha Fetterhoff, Caleen Crider and Ashley Barnhart.
Juniors wearing the maroon and gold this season are Lexie Munson, Shelby Hass and Morgan Goettle.
Sophomores taking a turn on the court include Kennedy Fricke, McKenzie Chrest and Shantell Brekhus.
Freshman testing their wings with the team are Linda Yang, Beca Wallstrum, Kinzie Jensen, Rebekah Fetterhoff and Justice Brown.
Games begin Friday
The Honkers will open their season Friday at the Minot Municipal Auditorium at the Shoot-out on the Prairie against Midway-Minot, beginning at 8 pm. Kenmare returns to the court Saturday to face Fordville-Lankin-PR in the 4:30 pm game.
Hometown fans will have a chance to watch the Honkers’ early season action on Monday, December 12th, in the first round of the Northwest Conference Fabulous 14 Tournament. New Town will play White Shield in Kenmare at 5:45 pm that day, followed by Kenmare taking on the New Town JV squad at 7:15 pm.
Other opening round games in the “Fab 14” tournament include Parshall against Trinity Christian and Tioga against Trenton, all in Tioga. Divide County will also host opening round games as Stanley plays Burke County and the Maroons face Mandaree. Ray and Glenburn will have byes in the first round.
The “Fab 14” tournament continues December 13th, 16th and 17th in Stanley at both the elementary and high school gyms. The NW Conference championship game is scheduled for 8:15 pm Saturday, December 17th.
The Honkers will take a break through the Christmas holidays, then return to the court January 3rd to play Divide County in Crosby before hosting Tioga on January 6th.
Action in the New Year continues on January 9th on the road against Westhope-Newburg and the 12th against Surrey. The Honkers play DLB on the home court on the 17th, then travel to Berthold on the 20th and New Town on the 21st. Kenmare closes out the month with home games against Our Redeemer’s on the 26th and Bishop Ryan on the 30th.
February begins with games against District 12 rivals Glenburn on the 3rd and Mohall Lansford Sherwood on the 7th. The Honkers’ final home game will be on Valentine’s Day as they host Stanley, and Kenmare’s regular season play will end on the 17th at Bottineau.
The District 12 girls basketball tournament is scheduled for February 24th, 25th and 27th at the Minot Municipal Auditorium, followed by the Region 6 tournament there on March 5th, 6th and 8th.
The Class B state girls basketball tournament will be played March 15th, 16th and 17th in Bismarck.
The senior players asked their fans for patience as the season begins. “Give us some time to get used to playing with each other,” said Barnhart.
“But come to the games and cheer us on,” Fetterhoff added.
Schwarz invited the Honkers’ fans to continue supporting the girls through basketball season, and to prepare themselves for the new team.
“People are looking at who we aren’t or who we lost,” he said, “and that’s not who we are or who we’ve got. The bonus for the fans this season is seeing these kids play, seeing how good they are and how much they’ve provided in past years. Now, it’s their turn to shine!”