By Rob LaPlante
The 2012-13 girls basketball team has accomplished what three of the past four St. Michael-Albertville state qualifying teams couldn’t do.
Last Thursday’s 57-41 victory over Mounds View improved its record to 4-0 and has them off to its best start since a 5-0 beginning to the 2004-05 campaign.
After defeating Prior Lake 57-44 on the road earlier in the week, the Knights returned home Thursday and knocked off a Mounds View team that was No. 11 in Class 4A for the pre-season rankings.
The Mustangs came in with a 3-1 record and were scoring nearly 62 points in their first four games. The Knights were winners of their first three games, all by double-digit scores and were only allowing 37.5 points to its enemy.
The night started off with Mounds View showcasing its scoring ability. Suburban East All-Conference guard Katie McDaniels sank three early shots as part of her nine points in the game. At one point the Mustangs built a lead of 13 points before the Knights battled back to even the score at 27-27 at the half.
“We haven’t been in a position where we have been behind,” said head coach Kent Hamre. The Knights have led in every game this season until the first half last Friday. “You could tell we were a little uncomfortable so we started forcing things that weren’t there.”
STMA’s leading scorer Natalie Van Wyhe would settle things down scoring a couple key baskets in the first half to keep the score within reach.
“It was different and we didn’t see it coming,” said Van Wyhe, on the team’s slow start. “We had to dig down deep and we eventually picked it up.”
Senior guard Jordan Hansen and junior Erin Autio sparked the rally, each scoring eight first-half points, including two key three-point shots from Autio.
The Knights finally took the lead for good early in the second half when they took a 33-31 advantage. From there, they outscored Mounds View 24-10 the rest of the way.
“We mixed up our defense a bit,” Hamre said. “McDaniels was hurting us with her outside shot, so we put in a half court trap. We tried mixing up our defense to keep them off guard.”
Coming off a 16-point effort in the win at Prior Lake, senior guard Makenzie Bebo was held off the scoreboard in the first half against Mounds View. She eventually finished with eight points.
Van Wyhe led all scorers with 14 points and collected 10 rebounds which gave her a double-double for the second consecutive outing.
“I’m still looking to improve and still looking for my best game,” said Van Wyhe, who has scored at least 10 points in every game this season. “But right now I’m pretty happy with the way I’m playing and as a team I think we can still do better.”
One of the strengths in the early wins has been the scoring balance. Besides Van Wyhe, the combination of Autio, Hansen, Bebo, sophomore Sydney Tracy and junior Bobbi Brendefur have all hit double digits in scoring.
The parity up and down the lineup is what Hamre said he expects to continue and is this year’s team strength.
“Bobbi had an outstanding game and did all the little things for us against Mounds View,” Hamre said. “We beat two quality opponents and this past week has been a great week for our program.”
The Knights were at Elk River Tuesday night and return this weekend for a pair of non-conference home games. Friday at 7:15 p.m. they host Moorhead and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. they take on Bemidji. Both teams are section foes and it was Bemidji who they knocked off 74-36 in the Section 8AAAA playoffs a year ago.