by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Maple Grove girls’ basketball coach Mark Cook is very optimistic about the new season, even though his team graduated a good senior class and the roster are dotted with underclass players.
Cook welcomes back only two returning starters in all-conference 5’9” senior guard Kaela Jones and all-conference honorable mention 5’8” senior guard Cora Bourbonais. But the Crimson are by no means inexperienced because many of them played significant varsity minutes last year.
They include 5’10” junior post Julie Hagert, 5’10” sophomore 5’10” post Allie Schmidt, 5’7” junior guard Haylee Barker, 6’ junior guard Mary Eckberg, 5’10” sophomore guard Kenzie Barta, 5’9” senior post Allie Winter and 6’1” sophomore guard/post Maddi Tharp.
“We have a good mix of young and old,” Crimson coach Mark Cook said. “We have seven players returning who played some key varsity minutes last season. We lost a great group of seniors, but we have a great group of young players ready to step up. Our guard play will be a key to our success this season.”
Maple Grove will try to improve on last year’s 19-7 overall record. They took third in the conference with a 15-5 record and lost in the section 5AAAA quarterfinals to Champlin Park. Cook believes this team has the talent to excel.
“Our conference and section are both very tough top to bottom this season,” Cook said. “Our conference is wide open this year. The NWSC is one of the toughest conferences top to bottom in the state this year. I feel like if we step up our game on the defensive end of the floor, we can compete for a conference and section championship.”
The Crimson will have to be prepared every outing as they face a brutal schedule.
“We will be challenged early and often with teams like John Marshall, Wayzata, Minnetonka, Centennial, Champlin Park, Osseo, Anoka, Elk River, Park Center, and a holiday tournament with Edina, STMA, and a top South Dakota team on our schedule,” Cook said. “Our girls will get tested night in and night out. We hope that we can continue to develop and improve as the season goes on and by February be playing our best basketball.”
The Crimson open the season with a home game against Cooper Thursday, Dec. 5. They then play Rochester John Marshall at 9:30 a.m. in the Hopkins Tournament Saturday, Dec. 7.
Contact Bob San at [email protected]