Girls already preparing for new basketball season: Team has plenty of experienced players returning

Chad Smith

The Kingsland girls’ basketball team kicked off its first practice of the season on Monday, Nov. 11, as the players prepare for season number two under head coach Steve Hauser.

The Knights were 16-10 a year ago and finished tied for first in the Southeast Conference East Division at 11-3. Hauser said the team will bring back some veteran players, but there will also be holes to fill in the lineup.

“We did lose three starters from last season but I’m really happy with the girls coming back this year,” he said. “We bring back two starters along with a lot of experience. As last season went on, many of the younger girls began to play increasing minutes. By the end of the year, we had a few girls playing that weren’t on the radar at the start of the season.”

The biggest void to fill will be the graduation of Lauren Buchholtz, who ended her career as the all-time points leader in Kingsland basketball history. Buchholtz averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds in her final season in a Knight jersey. The other two starters, Meagan Schultz and Nora Jahn, along with Victoria Hershberger also graduated last year.

Ellie Buchholtz (16 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals per game) and Shelby Beck (5 points, 4 rebounds per game) are the returning starters from last season. Hauser said one of the two veterans will make a position switch.

“Ellie played a lot of point guard last season,” Hauser recalled. “This year, we’ll probably move her to a forward position, with Shelby playing the other forward position.”

While looking to fill in the other three starting spots, Hauser said the coaches have good numbers to choose from, including four juniors, nine sophomores and four freshmen.  

“The girls call the first week of practice ‘Hell Week,’” he said with a chuckle. “We go from 3:30 to 6 every day because we don’t have to share the gym with the boys’ team for the entire week. That gives us a lot of time to get some things done.

“We’ll be doing a lot of running to get ourselves acclimated to the style of play we want to have this season,” he said. “We played up-and-down last year, but we want to take it to the next level this year as the girls will be even more aggressive in pushing the basketball.”

The reason for upping the pace of the game is the athletic ability of this year’s roster.

“For example, look at Anika Reiland,” Hauser said. “She’s just a ninth-grader this season but she’s been a part of the last two state champion 4X200-meter relay teams. Girls like Aubrey Webster and Sam Wernimont are both fast guards. We have to play some great full-court defense and get up and down the floor.

“We’re also happy to get Alyssa Link back this year. She tore her ACL in the second game of last season. She was back and playing already in the volleyball season. It’s almost like getting another starter back as she was the first guard off the bench last season.”

Merredith Farlinger is another post player returning for Kingsland, who won’t have a lot of size under the basket this season. “We may take a few lumps early in the season as the kids get used to playing with each other,” he added.

“We did get some work in during the summer,” Hauser said. “We didn’t go to any basketball camps, but we did play two games of league basketball every Tuesday night against a lot of Wisconsin teams. We did also get into a couple of tournaments too.”

The second year of Southeast Conference play will be a little different for the Kingsland girls. The Knights are moving from the East Division to the West Division this year. Schaeffer Academy will move in the opposite direction, from west to east.

“Our schools are in a straight line north and south of each other. Travel for each of us makes more sense this way,” he explained.

“The conference is tough,” Hauser said. “Grand Meadow is tough. Lyle/Pacelli, who went to the section title game last year, is back. They’re both on our side of the conference. Randolph is strong yet again and they’re on our side too. Houston lost one of the best players in the conference but still has a lot of experience returning.

 “If you aren’t ready to play on a given night, anything can and will happen in the Southeast Conference.”

The girls open the season at home against Grand Meadow on Friday, Dec. 6, and four of the first five regular-season games will be at home.