Rockets post win in first week of action
BY DAVID PEDERSEN
As hoped for by coach Amy Gould, her Delano girls basketball team exploited talent and depth in winning the first three games of the season despite playing all on the road.
The Tigers rolled past Rockford 58-29, St. Cloud Apollo 66-35 and Mayer Lutheran 68-39. Delano plays at Big Lake Thursday, Dec. 6 and is home to Monticello Dec. 13.
Meanwhile, Rockford rebounded from the loss to Delano to defeat Heritage Christian Academy 56-29 before losing to Annandale 71-47. The Rockets play at Foley Dec. 7 and at Pierz Dec. 11.
Delano was the more consistent and dominating of the two local teams. At the start Gould wondered how her young players would do, as well as the two recovering from major injuries.
One of the seven sophomores listed on varsity is Alex Wittinger, the top returning scorer who missed the volleyball season recovering from knee surgery.
The 6-foot-1 forward scored 12 points against Rockford and nine against Apollo. Gould said about halfway through the third game she took off, ending with 16 points and 18 rebounds.
“I haven’t seen her play like that maybe ever.” adds the coach. “We were not sure what she was capable of after being out of sports for two months.”
Delano has not relied on Wittinger to carry the load, mounting a balanced scoring attack with strength off the bench.
Against Apollo, Wittinger did not score in double digits, but four other Tigers did. Sophomore guard Brooke Lemke hit three 3-point shots in the first half and finished with 11. Sophomore Bria Barfnecht also netted 11 points while seniors Savanah Bettin and Katie Emmer both had 10 points.
Lemke also had 16 points against Watertown-Mayer and 15 to lead the attack against Rockford. Bettin added nine points and sophomore Kalley Koch scored seven against the Rockets.
Along with the balanced scoring, the defense has stood out for Delano. Only one player has scored in double figures in the three games. Apollo was limited to 13 points at the half and Rockford to 12.
“It is said defense wins championships, but it also can set up your offense,” said Gould. “We have players who can match up against different offensive formations. Plus, we say if we can own the boards we own the game.”
When Delano played St. Cloud it netted 46 first-half points. “I have never had a team shoot that well in a half,” adds the coach about the Tigers shooting over 60 percent. Lemke nailed three 3-point shots, Bettin had two and Barfnecht another.
Gould said it is good to have senior Darian Sowers back as a 6-foot forward who missed most of last year with an injury. She starts along with Emmer, Wittinger, Barfnecht and Bettin. Top reserves have been Lemke, 6-2 sophomore forward Tayler Hedtke, Koch, sophomore Makenna Giese and junior Gabrielle Mielke.
Rockford was led by Jordan Weeding against Delano with six points, while Katelynn Pedersen added five. In the victory over Heritage Christian, Wedding netted 13 points and Brianna Calder hit for 10.
The Rockets had more balanced scoring against a much bigger school in Annandale. Guard Hnubci Lee, a ninth-grader, led with nine points, followed by Pedersen (8), Jayda Palmer (7) and Samantha Bagaason (7).