By Rob LaPlante
You know things are going good when the toughest decision for a head coach is figuring out when to call it a night for the starters.
That was the case on two different occasions for St. Michael-Albertville head coach Kent Hamre.
The Knights posted three section wins last week, including a 57-49 win last Tuesday at Elk River. They followed that up with two straight convincing home wins. A 77-33 victory last Friday over Moorhead was followed up Saturday with a 68-30 blowout of Bemidji.
STMA senior captain Natalie Van Wyhe was held to a season low five points against the Elks, but senior’s Makenzie Bebo and Jordan Hansen helped pick up the slack by each scoring 13 points. Junior Bobbi Brendefur added 12 points and had six of the team’s 15 steals.
“Our defense was pretty special that night,” said Hamre, on the Knights creating 24 turnovers. “Elk River plays a tough schedule and by season’s end, I think they will be one of the top 2-3 teams in the section.”
While the Elks were able to stay in the game despite the pressure defense the Knights forced, STMA’s next two opponents would not.
The Knights jumped on Moorhead early and held a 17-point halftime lead. Steals again were the theme, as the Knights matched their previous total with 15 for the contest.
“Moorhead kind of stayed with us right away, but with about six minutes left in the half we went on a 12-0 run and that kind of sealed the win for us,” Hamre said.
STMA would run away with the game, outscoring the Spuds 38-11 in half two and Hamre was able to play his entire bench in the 44-point win.
Van Wyhe scored 13 points and junior Erin Autio added 11. A season-high 12 different players found the score sheet for the Knights as Hamre was able to utilize his entire bench.
The same scenario panned out in Saturday’s win over Bemidji. After a bit of a slow start, Brendefur settled things down and scored seven points early to build a comfortable 17-5 lead. The first-year varsity player ended up with 13 points and five steals in the 38-point win.
“This is great,” said Brendefur, who is third on the team in scoring, averaging 8.1 points per game in the team’s 7-0 start. “This is a fun experience and I’m happy to have this opportunity.”
“We knew what she was capable of and she’s stepped up as a first-year varsity player and played like a veteran out there,” Hamre said. “Bobbi makes good decisions and is very composed.”
With the game out of reach, again Hamre had the opportunity to clear his bench. Ten different Knights scored, but Van Wyhe had her best offensive game scoring a season-high 20 points prior to exiting with about six minutes remaining in the game.
Freshman Sydney Tracy also scored a season-high 12 points.
The Knights are off to their best start in school history and look to go 8-0 this Thursday when they play an away game at Minnetonka. The Skippers (6-1) are ranked No. 7 in Class 4A and will be their toughest challenge to date.
“I feel like we’re playing the best to our ability and stepping up this year and hoping to make a bigger run,” Brendefur said.