Experience should key Braves’ bid for success

With 12 players returning with varsity experience, Steve Schreiber is counting on a successful season from the Menahga girls basketball team. A year ago, the Braves tied for sixth place in the Park Region Conference with a 3-9 record and received...

     With 12 players returning with varsity experience, Steve Schreiber is counting on a successful season from the Menahga girls basketball team.

     A year ago, the Braves tied for sixth place in the Park Region Conference with a 3-9 record and received the No. 6 seed in the north for the Section 5A playoffs. Menahga opened section play with a 37-33 loss to No. 3 Pine River-Backus to cap off a 9-16 season.

     The Braves graduated only two players off that team. Jenny Skoog led the Braves by averaging 9.2 points and 11.8 rebounds a game while Savannah Kako chipped in 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds a night.

     Returning to lead the Braves this season are seniors Hannah Allebach (5-4 guard), Lakyn Anderson (5-4 guard), Sarah Kuismi (5-3 guard); and Shelby Pihlaja (5-6 guard); juniors Danielle Novak (5-7 forward) and Jen Stifter (5-4 guard); sophomores Lindsey Hendrickson (5-7 forward) and Alayna Lake (5-4 guard); freshman Leah Schwartz (5-4 guard); and eighth graders Cierra Ahlf (5-5 guard), Aimee Lake (5-4 guard) and Alyssa Peterson (5-4 guard).

     Pihlaja returns to Menahga after playing for Staples-Motley last season. As a sophomore, Pihlaja averaged 15.4 points and 5.7 rebounds a game for the Braves.


     Allebach was second on the team in scoring last season by averaging 7.7 points a game. Allebach made 71 of 207 shots (34.3 percent), including 12 for 50 on 3-pointers, and 30 of 51 free throws (58.8 percent) in scoring 184 points in 24 games. Allebach also had 55 rebounds, 53 assists and 47 steals.

     Stifter was third on the team in scoring at 6.8 points a game. Stifter played in all 25 games and shot 25.2 percent from the field (55 for 218, including 23 for 83 on 3-pointers) and 61.3 percent at the free throw line (38 for 62) in scoring 170 points. Stifter led the Braves with 63 assists, was second with 92 rebounds and had 41 steals.

     Lakyn Anderson also played in all 25 games and averaged 4.4 points a game by making 39 of 139 shots (28.1 percent) and 17 of 35 free throws (48.6 percent) in scoring 109 points. Anderson made 18 of 58 3-pointers, grabbed 58 rebounds and had 26 steals and 25 assists.

     Novak played in 24 games and scored 74 points (3.1 per game) while shooting 37 percent from the floor (30 for 81) and 58.3 percent at the line (14 for 24). Novak also had 57 rebounds and 13 steals.

     Alayna Lake also played in all 25 games last season, making 19 of 100 shots (19 percent) and 21 of 40 free throws (52.5 percent) in scoring 69 points. Lake also had 42 rebounds, 41 steals and 38 assists.

     Aimee Lake hit 16 of 48 shots (33.3 percent) and 4 of 16 free throws (25 percent) in tallying 37 points (1.8 per game), 23 rebounds and 10 assists in 21 games.

     Peterson played in 16 games and averaged 1.6 points a game, making 8 of 35 shots (22.9 percent) and 8 of 21 free throws (38.1 percent) in scoring 26 points. Peterson also had 17 rebounds and 14 steals.

     Ahlf saw action in 23 games and averaged 1.2 points a night. Ahlf made 9 of 34 field goals (26.5 percent) and 6 of 12 free throws (50 percent) in compiling 27 points, 23 rebounds and 11 steals.


     Seeing some varsity time last season were Kuismi (3 points in 11 games), Hendrickson (2 points in two games) and Schwartz (1 point in two games).

     Rounding out this year’s varsity team are eighth graders Megan Hendrickson (5-4 guard) and Olivia Yliniemi (5-6 guard).

     “We return a ton of experience this year, mainly because we were so inexperience last year,” said Schreiber. “Expectations I have for the girls are that they come together as a group of experienced athletes and bring the effort every day in practice and to every game we have. Being so young last year, we had a roller coaster season. But I think in general we exceeded expectations. This year, those expectations go up. With five seniors on our team along with a very talented group of underclass athletes, we need to be ready to go come playoff time. We want to improve our shooting and offense while keeping up with our tradition of tough defense. The girls want to have our first winning season in eight years and I think the ability is there to do that.”

     Schreiber predicts Verndale, New York Mills and Sebeka will be the top teams in the conference with defending champion Browerville being the team to beat in the section. In order to deliver that winning season, the Braves will have to move up in the conference standings. A solid off-season has Schreiber optimistic his team can accomplish that goal.

     “We have a lot of teams on our schedule that are very similar in ability and hopefully our experience will give us an advantage. I think we’ll be right there with the top three in the conference and I think we’ll stick with the second tier of teams in the section,” said Schreiber, whose team averaged 42.0 points a game while allowing 47.0 points a night. “If we mesh and stay healthy, there’s no reason why we can’t hang with those top teams because we are definitely more talented this year. The younger girls put in 60 games between last season and now and the older girls got in 40 games over the summer, so we are very ready to start the real thing. It should be a fun year.”

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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