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Menahga girls look to peak for playoffs

Cody Pulju has plenty of reasons to have high expectations for the Menahga girls basketball team this season.

In Pulju's first season as head coach, the Braves won the Park Region Conference title for the first time in 11 years with a 12-2 mark and tied the school record for wins by going 23-6. Menahga received the No. 2 seed in the North for the Section 5A playoffs and reached the North championship game before seeing the season end with a 78-40 loss to No. 1 Cromwell, which went on to win the section title and place third at the state Class A tournament.

With the return of four all-conference players, Pulju is counting on the Braves to at least duplicate last year's success.

Leading the Braves this season will be senior Leah Schwartz; juniors Alyssa Peterson, Cierra Ahlf, Megan Hendrickson, and Aimee Lake; sophomore Tara Hendrickson; and freshman Martha Peterson. Alyssa Peterson, Ahlf and Megan Hendrickson were all-conference players a year ago while Lake received all-conference honorable mention honors.

Alyssa Peterson led the Braves in scoring at 20.9 points a game. Peterson scored 606 points while adding 116 rebounds and 93 assists in 29 games as a guard.

Ahlf was second in scoring at 12.2 points a night, scoring 354 points while adding 197 rebounds and 90 assists in 29 games as a guard.

Megan Hendrickson returns at forward after averaging 9.2 points and a team-leading 8.4 rebounds a game. Hendrickson scored 239 points, had 218 rebounds and dished out 75 assists in 26 games.

Aimee Lake played in 20 games as a guard and contributed 134 points, 78 assists and 70 rebounds.

Schwartz returns at forward after tallying 62 points, 87 rebounds and 28 assists in 28 games last season.

Tara Hendrickson (71 points, 46 rebounds, 14 assists in 23 games) and Martha Peterson (62 points,, 26 rebounds, 20 assists in 22 game) also return as guards.

The Braves have two key players to replace with the graduation of Lindsay Hendrickson and Alayna Lake. Hendrickson was an all-conference post player who averaged 10.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a game in 28 games as a starter while Lake had 30 points and 43 rebounds in 25 games as a reserve guard.

Looking to help replace those two players will be freshmen Anita Lehto (guard), Kate Hendrickson (forward) and Timbr Berttunen (guard); and eighth graders Amanda Lake (guard), Greta Hillukka (forward), Janie Tormanen (forward), Lela Peterson (guard) and Maryn Pinoniemi (guard).

The junior varsity will consist of sophomore Samantha Pfeifer; freshman Samara Kicker; and eighth graders Allie Pfeifer, Brooke Grewe, Claire Pinoniemi, Jane Peterson, Journie Schoon, Julia Besonen, Kaarin Lehto, Megan Holtz, Molly Hendrickson and Sadie Baker.

"The girls have worked super hard throughout the offseason," said Pulju. "If we can stay healthy, I expect us to be able to compete with most teams on our schedule. Hopefully we will be playing good team basketball come playoff time."