Everything new for Lady Tigers basketball team

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By Jay Davis

Keshia Milliken is one of the few Lady Tigers with extended varsity experience when Mobridge-Pollock opens the season at Britton-Hecla on Saturday. The Lady Tigers will make their home debut on Tuesday when Aberdeen Roncalli comes to Mobridge-Pollock High School Gymnasium.

What’s new with Lady Tiger basketball? Just about everything.
Last spring’s graduating class included a host of seniors and the last of the mainstays of a team that won 55 games in three years. Also gone is the coach who led them to those victories.
Ann LaMont takes the reins for the Lady Tigers. This is the 1995 Mobridge High School graduate’s first head coaching job in basketball. After graduating from Northern State University, LaMont was a basketball and volleyball coach in Warner before she become head volleyball coach in Chamberlain. LaMont was a three-sport star for the Lady Tigers and was an All-Big Dakota Conference selection in basketball.
The assistant coach is brand new in Lindsey Kramer, a 2006 MHS grad, who was a starter for the Lady Tigers when they took second in the State A Basketball Tournament that same year.
Also new to the varsity is almost every player, and they are all underclassmen. Of the 11 players who have been issued varsity jerseys, only two were on the varsity at the beginning of last season. The squad has two juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen.
“It’s been a big learning curve for everybody,” said LaMont. “They’re excited. I’m excited. Everything is new and that’s a challenge.”
The Lady Tigers return just two players who had appreciable playing time last year in junior Keshia Milliken and sophomore Aundrea Kramer.
“They’re the two who understand the intensity of varsity basketball the best,” said LaMont.
Also logging minutes and scoring in a handful of games last year were junior Steph Gemar and sophomores Chelsy Hoffman and Maranda Wagner.
‘The girls are starting to realize it’s their turn,” said LaMont. “I’ve got some girls who have stepped up pretty well. They want to prove to people that they can play, and that they can be good.”
The other sophomore is Kayla Schneider, who played for McLaughlin last year. Freshmen making the varsity are Taylor Brekke, Alexa Schaefbauer, Cassi Heumiller, Kylee Wagner and Kaitlin Goodshield.
With all the new faces, the competition for playing times has brought hard-fought practices.
“It’s been intense,” said LaMont. “The kids feel good about how hard they’ve been working.”
Besides the youth and inexperience, the Lady Tigers are going to be the shortest team on the court almost every time out. The tallest players are Kylee Wagner who is 5’9” and Kramer and Hoffman who are 5’8”.
“You can’t teach height, but we’re trying to teach the girls to play bigger then they are,” said LaMont. “We want to be in better shape that our opponents. We’re conditioning every day.”
While the team is looking for who will become the shooters and scorers, they will emphasize defense and scoring in transition when they can force mistakes.
“We’re stressing team defense. We call it ‘relentless pursuit,’” said LaMont. “We’re looking at rotating eight or nine players. With the young team we have, we’re going to be rotating a lot, seeing what is the best fit for every matchup.”
Most of the junior varsity team is made up of players who will suit up in varsity jerseys, but the entire team is 17 deep. Starting the season on JV are junior Jo’L Pretends Eagle, sophomores Haley Filler and Miranda Eisemann and freshmen Madison Rau, ReAnne Kohlus and Abby Wingate.
The Lady Tigers open on the road this weekend, taking on Britton-Hecla in Britton on Saturday. The new Lady Tigers will show their form to the home fans on Tuesday when Aberdeen Roncalli comes to Mobridge-Pollock High School Gymnasium.
“Britton-Hecla is a perfect start for us,” said LaMont. “They have a couple players who are 5’11” and have three seniors. Roncalli will be gunning for us.”
There will be plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, but LaMont and her charges know this is not about how they play on Saturday or Tuesday, but how they grow as a team and what kind of team they become by February.
“They realize there will be adversity, but that is a challenge,” said LaMont, “a challenge to get better and learn from mistakes. I think they are up to it. They are ready for the challenge.”
The Lady Tigers are 9-3 in the all-time series with Britton-Hecla. They have won the last three, including a 60-44 win last year. The girls have beaten Roncalli four straight and hold a 21-15 edge in the all-time series. The Lady Tigers beat the Cavaliers 58-51 last year.

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