Some familiar faces, new basketball coach for Lanesboro girls

By : 
Lee Epps

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The Lanesboro girls return three starters under the direction of new head coach Josh Schreiber. That leadership could provide improvement on last winter's 5-20 record that included 2-11 mark in the SEC East Division.

Graduation claimed the leading rebounder, but the Burros bring back three of last year's top four scorers, two of the top four rebounders and the top two on the steals chart.

Two 5-foot-8 senior forwards are back for a third season in major roles. Emily Snyder received Honorable Mention on the all-conference team while Lexie Johnson was voted Most Valuable Player by her Lanesboro teammates. Junior guard Payton Benson (5-5) also started last season.

Snyder was last year's second leading scorer and also second on the team in rebounds, steals and assists. Her coach called her one of the two best defenders on the team.

Johnson was last year's steals leader, was third in assists and hit close to 50 percent of her two-point attempts.

Benson was the leading scorer and the most productive beyond the three-point arc (102 points).

That most veteran trio is joined by 5-6 junior guard Sophia Simes - among five others returning with varsity experience. Listed as forwards are 5-8 junior Sophie Pieper and 5-9 sophomore Sydney Taylor.

Two other guards also return - 5-5 junior Alida Berg and 5-6 sophomore Madison Ehler.

Freshman 5-7 point guard Brielle Ruen was voted B-Team Player of the Year last year as an eighth grader. Another freshman guard, 5-4 Malia Tessum will also vie for varsity minutes.

Joining the basketball program this winter are senior forward Lauren Zoellner and sophomore forward Kendall Stettler.

Numbers are not especially strong with only 14 candidates in grades 9 through 12, including freshmen guard Ella Cambern and Makayla Brogle.

But there is numerical balance with either three or four players from each grade. Eighth graders most likely to see B-team action are guards Nadia Highum and Skyler Check along with forwards Grace Dowling, Kaci Ruen and Jessie Schreiber.

Coach Schreiber was a Burro assistant  last season but was a boys basketball head coach for nine years in Nebraska. He was a collegiate cager at Concordia College (Nebraska).

Kyle Blahnik is the new varsity assistant and B-team mentor. Guiding the junior high girls are Jared Pierce and Dusty McCabe.

Improvement and effort

Coach Schreiber said the Burros will attempt some new things on both offense and defense this year to take advantage of team strengths — quickness and athletic ability.

He plans to push the ball up the court and may employ some pressure defense.

Adjusting to a new coach and some new strategy may result in some growing pains, but Schreiber told parents to look for improvement throughout the season.

He also noted "tremendous effort" will be on display when the ladies are on the court.

There will be little height advantage with experienced players ranging from 5-5 up to 5-9. But many if not most conference rivals lack significant size as well. 

The Burros plan for the combination of experienced leadership on the floor and new leadership from the bench to provide more victories on the scoreboard.

Most satisfying was a playoff win against Bethlehem Academy before running into eventual state champion Lyle/Pacelli.

Two of last year's wins came against Glenville-Emmons. This year, the G-E girls are sharing with Alden-Conger and competing in the Valley Conference instead of the Southeast Conference. The Burros do have a non-conference date with A-C/G-E.

The schedule

With the departure of G-E, Schaeffer Academy moves into the West Division. That makes space in the SEC East for new member Kingsland and five teams in each division.

The Burros will play home and away against the other four East Division rivals — Mabel-Canton, Houston, Spring Grove and Kingsland — and one conference game each with five West rivals — Grand Meadow, LeRoy-Ostrander, Schaeffer, Lyle/Pacelli and Randolph.

LHS will face the Rockets in a Jan. 25 girls-boys double header at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

There will be second non-conference contests with both Schaeffer and Lyle/Pacelli.

The power appears to reside in the West Division with defending state champion L/P (32-1) returning two All-SEC standouts. Grand Meadow (23-6) was state-ranked last year and returns two First Team All-SEC performers plus an Honorable Mention who had been First Team the previous season.

There should be more parity in the SEC East, where Houston hopes to defend its first-ever conference title in girls basketball.

The 24-game slate includes other non-league foes Fillmore Central, St. Charles, Wabasha-Kellogg, Christian Life and A-C/G-E.

LHS will take on Central Elkader (Elkader, Iowa) in the annual Iowa-Minnesota Border Battle at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

There will be a three-team bracket at the annual holiday tournament at Winona State with the girls taking on a pair of Class AA clubs — Lewiston-Altura and Chatfield.

This week and next

The season begins with this week's home opener versus Spring Grove on Friday, Nov. 30. A second SEC game follows at Lyle/Pacelli on Dec. 6.

Two days later is the Saturday, Dec. 8, border battle tip-off at 11 a.m. with Central Elkader.

Look for the complete schedule in next week's News Leader.