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Braves looking to take on new roles

     How much success the Menahga girls basketball team has this season will depend on how well last year’s role players adapt to being key players.

     The Braves must replace almost all of their scoring with the graduation of Tarah Cleveland, Bradi Carlson and Shannon Skoog and the transfer of Shelby Pihlaja. Cleveland led the Braves by scoring 22.1 points a game with 75 3-pointers, 67 steals and 65 assists and ended her career as Menahga’s all-time leading scorer with 2,715 points. Carlson averaged 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds a game while Skoog chipped in 1.7 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. Pihlaja was second on the team in scoring at 15.4 points a game and second in 3-pointers with 30, rebounds with 132 and assists with 55.

     With those weapons gone, head coach Steve Schreiber will be relying heavily on senior Jenny Skoog to lead the way.

     Skoog, a 5-foot-9 forward, is the only returning starter from last year’s team that went 11-14 overall and tied for fourth place in the Park Region Conference with a 7-5 record. Skoog was third on the team in scoring at 7.7 points a game while leading the team in rebounds at 11.3 a night. In 24 games, Skoog scored 184 points, grabbed 272 rebounds and had 52 assists, 34 steals and 25 blocked shots. Skoog shot 36.6 percent from the field (68 for 183) and 66 percent from the free throw line (31 for 47).

     Also returning with some varsity experience are senior Savannah Kako (5-9 center), juniors Hannah Allebach (5-4 guard), Lakyn Anderson (5-4 guard) and Sarah Kuismi (5-3 guard), sophomores Jen Stifter (5-4 guard), Shyanna Cusey (5-10 center), Kalley Clark (5-7 forward) and Dani Novak (5-7 forward); and freshman Alayna Lake (5-4 guard).

     Allebach played in 23 games and had 48 points, 51 rebounds, 19 steals and 12 assists. Stifter played in 25 games and had 48 points, 68 rebounds, 36 assists and 20 steals. Kako had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 12 games. Anderson played in 15 games, Cusey played in 11 games, Kuismi played in five games, Lake and Clack played in three games each, and Novak played in two games.

     “We bring very little varsity experience into this year. We need some girls that had very good junior varsity seasons last year to step up and play confidently,” said Schreiber. “We lost a lot of our total offense from last year and how we fill those spots will determine how tough we are this year.”

     With new players being counted on to produce on the offensive end, Schreiber will be counting on solid defense to make the Braves competitive.

      “We will be tough on defense and I think we have a lot of young, inexperienced talent coming up. I believe we will be a lot tougher at the end of the season than we are at the start of the season,” said Schreiber. “These girls will need to play as one singular unit this year and so far they have bought into that in practice. I’m not sure where we’ll end up this year in our conference and section. Where we fit in that mix will be determined by how fast these young girls can pick up our offense and our defense. Our future looks bright and I’m excited to see where these girls end up.”