BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Delano will be better able to pick up where the girls basketball team left off last year because a bulk of the team leaders return.
The Tigers started strong in the playoffs last season by dominating Big Lake 75-51 before losing to top seed Monticello 61-54. Delano trailed by one at the half but the shots would not fall in the second half.
Coach Amy Gould is optimistic about the new season that starts at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at Rockford for many reasons. The players have experience, size and athletic ability.
“It was said that one year of maturity equals two years of coaching,” notes Gould. “Our young players gained so much from playing on varsity and are much stronger this year.”
Delano returns eight varsity letter winners, five who are still only sophomores. The three seniors played key roles last year. There were no sophomores on varsity last year.
The top two scorers from last year were ninth graders. Alex Wittinger, a 6-foot-1 forward, had a breakout season in basketball averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds during the season and 19 points and 15 rebounds in the two playoff games.
Wittinger also went to state in both hurdle events the past two seasons and started in volleyball as a ninth-grader last year. However, ankle surgery kept her out of volleyball this fall.
“Alex is good to go,” added Gould. “She is a high impact player as a phenomenal athlete. Now we have strong players around her.”
It will help to have back senior captain Darian Sowers, a 6-1 forward who suffered a major knee injury early last season and missed the rest of it.
Sophomore Bria Barfnecht averaged nearly 10 points and seven rebounds as a 5-9 forward during the regular season. Gould said Barfnecht is one of the top rebounders in the state along with Wittinger.
Also providing support under the basket is 6-3 sophomore Tayler Hedtke, who moved up to varsity the second half of last season. Gould said Hedtke also is physically stronger and developed foot skills playing varsity tennis.
Senior captain Katie Emmer averaged 4.4 points and 3.5 rebounds in the regular season, but in the playoffs she averaged 19.5 points and six rebounds.
“Emmer is a gamer and amazing rebounder,” said Gould. “Most of her points came when she rebounded and scored off her own shots. Here leadership in practice raises the level of play for everybody.”
Senior captain Savanah Bettin returns at guard where “she is strong on defense and is more confident with her ball handling,” adds the coach.
Koch said sophomores Brooke Lemke and Kalley Koch worked hard this summer getting confidence in the skills they have.
Role players will be juniors Gabrielle Mielke and Coco Arens, plus sophomores Makenna Giese and Michelle Endersbe.
“Our goal is to be competitive in every single game and have a winning record, which has not happened at Delano in many years,” said Gould.
Delano will do something different at Christmas this season. The team will play one game at Southwest State University in Marshall, plus do some team bonding.
After opening against Rockford, Delano heads to play at St. Cloud Apollo at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, and to Mayer Lutheran at 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1.