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Girls Basketball: Returning players excited for chance to start, lead Menahga

The Braves have to replace entire starting lineup from last year's 26-3 team.

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Mackenzie Anderson will be counted on to lead the offense for the Menahga girls basketball team during the 2022-23 season.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise
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A senior-led group guided the Menahga girls basketball team to a 14-0 record to win the Park Region Conference title, a trip to the Section 8AA championship game and an impressive 26-3 record last season.

While duplicating that success will be difficult, head coach Cody Pulju is expecting this year’s team to once again contend for the conference and section titles.

The Braves have to replace their entire starting lineup of Janie Tormanen, Maryn Pinoniemi, Lela Peterson, Amanda Lake and Allie Pfeifer. Tormanen was named the conference’s MVP and was joined by Pinoniemi, Peterson and Lake on the all-conference team. Pfeifer received all-conference honorable mention honors.

Those five starters led the team in every statistical category. Tormanen led Menahga by averaging 15.3 points and 7.0 rebounds a game while adding 61 steals, 56 assists and 28 blocked shots. Pinoniemi was second on the team in scoring at 13.3 points a game and led the Braves with 43 3-pointers. Pinoniemi also had 74 rebounds, 67 steals and 44 assists. Peterson chipped in 7.7 points a game and led Menahga with 96 assists and 76 steals while making 29 3-pointers and grabbing 69 rebounds. Lake averaged 6.5 points per game and had 100 rebounds, 54 steals and 28 assists while making 34 3-pointers. Pfeifer averaged 4.3 points a game and had 110 rebounds, 71 assists and 63 steals.

That group guided the Braves to an undefeated conference record and to the section finals where Fergus Falls denied Menahga a trip to state with a 51-29 victory.

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Being counted on to lead the Braves this season are the returning letterwinners: senior Abby Johnson; juniors Janelle Hendrickson, Addie Pinoniemi and Erica Tormanen; and sophomores Anjalie Aho, Mackenzie Anderson, Joie Koll, Niina Pinoniemi, Taija Pinoniemi and Leah Weaver.

Anderson (131 points, 61 rebounds, 36 steals, 20 assists in 26 games), Erica Tormanen (61 points, 34 rebounds, 15 steals in 22 games), Hendrickson (42 points, 35 rebounds, 15 steals, 12 assists in 24 games), Koll (29 points, 26 rebounds, 13 steals in 22 games), Addie Pinoniemi (27 points, 20 rebounds, 11 steals in 18 games), Weaver (25 points, 24 rebounds in 15 games), Aho (19 points, 12 assists, 12 steals in 12 games), Taija Pinoniemi (15 games) and Niina Pinoniemi (nine games) will take over key roles after gaining valuable experience on varsity last season.

Providing depth will be juniors Sophia Oporto and Elise Torola; sophomores Maddie Hendrickson and Anna Pietila; and freshmen Macie Josephson, Joanna Lehto, Kiana Skoog and Elise Torola.

“We graduated one of our biggest classes ever from our program last year. However, we have lots of hungry and talented athletes that work very hard that are ready for their opportunity,” said Menahga head coach Cody Pulju. “We expect to have a competitive team this year. We will be very young, but deep. We have at least 10 girls that are ready to get varsity playing time. This crew is young, fun and excited for their opportunity. Our goals never change. We expect to compete every night and compete for the conference and section (titles).”

SEASON SCHEDULE

Nov. 29 – vs. Pelican Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 6 – at Henning, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 – vs. Bertha-Hewitt, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 – vs. Mountain Iron-Buhl, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 15 – at New York Mills, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 – at Park Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 3 – vs. Verndale, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 6 – vs. Sebeka, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7 – vs. Crookston, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 – at Wadena-Deer Creek, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 – vs. Pillager, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 – at Pine River-Backus, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20 – vs. Henning, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 27 – at Hibbing, 7:15 p.m. Jan. 28 – at Chisholm, 2 p.m. Jan. 31 – vs. New York Mills, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 2 – at Bertha-Hewitt, 6 p.m. Feb. 3 – at Verndale, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 – at Sebeka, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 – at Osakis, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 13 – at Browerville-Eagle Valley, 7:15 p.m. Feb. 14 – vs. Wadena-Deer Creek, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 – at Pillager, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21 – vs. Frazee, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 – at Hawley, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 – vs. Sauk Centre, 7:30 p.m.

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