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Braves focused on fundamentals, set foundation for future success

Katie Miller capped off her senior season by averaging 9.5 points a game for the Menahga girls basketball team.

Steve Schreiber is hoping the 2009-2010 season formed the foundation to building the Menahga girls basketball team back as a Section 5A contender.

The Braves finished with an 8-18 overall record, including a 3-9 mark in Park Region Conference play, under the first-year head coach. Schreiber is counting on Menahga to improve on that record next season.

"Overall I thought the season went all right. We ended right around what I expected," said Schreiber. "My expectations for next year are to get above .500 and to compete with every team we play."

The Braves opened the season with a 54-40 loss to Park Rapids and wins over Hill City (47-34) and Cass Lake-Bena (51-46).

In the conference openers, the Braves were defeated by Sebeka (73-37) and Pillager (49-37). Menahga then lost holiday tournament games at Glyndon to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (71-41) and Warren (76-55).

Menahga then split conference games with a 75-46 victory over Henning and a 91-18 loss to Bertha-Hewitt. Losses to Nevis (55-30), New York Mills (76-37) and Pine River-Backus (65-44) followed as the Braves fell to 3-9.

A 64-52 win over Verndale ended that four-game slide before the Braves went 1-7 over the next eight games with losses to Wadena-Deer Creek (80-35), Sebeka (67-38) and Northland Remer (70-43); a 75-30 victory over Laporte; and conference losses to Pillager (68-49), Henning (67-61 in overtime), Bertha-Hewitt (71-22) and New York Mills (88-63).

The Braves ended the regular season with a 54-45 win over Verndale, a 69-54 win over Browerville and a 69-52 loss to Eagle Valley.

In the conference standings, New York Mills, Bertha-Hewitt and Sebeka all went 10-2. New York Mills went 24-3 overall, B-H finished at 23-4 and Sebeka ended at 23-6. Pillager followed with a 6-6 conference record while Henning (2-10) and Verndale (1-11) trailed the Braves.

In the Section 5A playoffs, the Braves were awarded the No. 9 seed and opened with a 63-43 win over No. 8 Browerville before being eliminated with a 74-41 loss to No. 1 Bertha-Hewitt.

"I would never be completely satisfied with an eight-win season, but we were very young and had a lot of fundamental basketball skills to learn before we could start on our schematics for the year," said Schreiber. "There were a couple of games that I thought we let slip early in the year, but we finished very strong. I think our playoff game against Bertha was our best game of the year. We played with a lot of heart and were able to end the season with our heads held high. Our schedule was extremely tough this year and will get only slightly easier next year. I think the tough schedule we played this year will make us a better team next year."

Leading the Braves, who averaged 47.7 points a game while allowing 62.1 points a night, this season were senior Katie Miller; juniors Lindsey White and Amelia Pho; sophomores Beth Tormanen and Arielle Pihlaja; and freshmen Tarah Cleveland and Maria Tormanen.

Cleveland led the Braves in scoring at 18.1 points per game. Cleveland made 142 of 358 field goals, including 43 for 138 on 3-pointers, and 139 of 180 free throws for 470 points. The freshman guard also had 100 rebounds, 52 steals and 43 assists in 26 games.

Miller finished second on the team in scoring at 9.5 points a game. In 26 games, Miller made 71 of 243 field goals (including 51 for 179 on 3-pointers) and 53 of 88 free throws for 246 points. The senior point guard led the team with 97 steals and 88 assists while contributing 72 rebounds.

White, a junior forward, was third in scoring at 9.1 points and game while leading the team in rebounding with 5.7 a night. White hit 67 of 177 field goals and 100 of 169 free throws in scoring 237 points. White also pulled down 149 rebounds while chipping in 63 steals, 26 blocked shots and 20 assists.

Pho, a junior forward, tallied 105 points (4.2 points a night), 92 rebounds, 42 steals, 27 assists and 15 blocks. Pho made 40 of 126 field goals and 16 of 37 free throws in 25 games.

Beth Tormanen made 26 of 111 field goals and 40 of 87 free throws for 96 points (3.8 per game). The sophomore guard finished the season with 87 rebounds, 67 steals, 33 assists and 13 blocks in 25 games.

Pihlaja also played in 25 games and made 14 of 68 field goals (including 11 of 53 3-pointers) while finishing with 44 points. The sophomore guard also had 29 rebounds and eight steals.

Maria Tormanen played 26 games as a reserve guard, tallying 16 points, 48 rebounds, 17 steals and 16 assists.

Also seeing some varsity action this season were sophomore Patricia Haataja; freshmen Brianna Paulson, Bradi Carlson, Bridget Taylor, Morgan Clements and Shannon Skoog; eighth grader Jenny Skoog; and seventh grader Shelby Pihlaja.

"I am very excited for next year. The girls want to get after it this summer and to see their excitement tells me that they want to be better next year than this year," said Schreiber. "We lose our starting point guard, so someone will have to step up and become our leader on offense. I truly hope to have 10 varsity players next year that I can feel comfortable playing in any game. The biggest key to getting this team from all right to good to great is that the girls make time to become great. In order to get there, the girls really have to want it this summer and get in the gym. I already told them that I will get them in the gym whenever they want. We're giving them the resources. Now they need to apply themselves."