by Bob SAn
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
On paper, the Osseo High girls’ basketball team faces a tall task of trying to repeat the success it has enjoyed the past two years when it won the conference and section crowns and finished second and fourth in the state tournament.
Gone are starters Phillis Webb, Janay Morton and Belinda Barfknetch, leaving senior point guard Madi Malone and senior forward Ayo Porte as the only returning players who saw significant minutes last season.
Second-year head coach John Rieser feels Porte and Malone give his young squad two strong players and leaders to build around.
“Ayo, who has signed to play basketball at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, is our best all-around player,” Rieser said. “She is very athletic and is able to guard wing and post players effectively. We will be looking to her for her defensive presence and her offensive ability to run the floor. Madi continues to improve her shooting and ball handling skills. We are really excited about her leadership skills on and off the court.”
Rieser looks for several talented but young Orioles such as junior Catera Etheridge and sophomore Ari Jones to make significant contributions this season.
“Cat is our most athletic player,” Rieser said. “She is continuing to improve her shooting and finishing skills. We are looking for her to add to our defensive presence this season, with her ability to guard post and perimeter players. Ari returns after having spent most of last year on the junior varsity roster. She came on strong on both ends of the court in our end-of-the-season run to the state tournament. Her steady play and shooting should help us this season.”
A key addition to the Orioles this season is sophomore Kiara Russell, a transfer from Bloomington Kennedy who brings talent and big-game experience. Russell played on the Kennedy team that finished second in the state tournament last year losing to Hopkins in the state championship game.
“Kiara is a very talented player,” Rieser said. “She is a hard worker and has great skills on both ends of the court. The coaching staff is excited to see her in action this season.”
Rounding out the varsity roster are senior Anna Fletcher, juniors Haley Swanson and Courtney Calkins and freshman Azaria Reed.
“Anna and Courtney are expected to contribute this season as sharp shooting perimeter players,” Rieser said. “Azaria is a post player who is hard working and energetic. Hayley should also give us some strong minutes in the post.”
The Orioles will definitely miss the leadership and athleticism of the departed seniors but they should still be a competitive and entertainment team.
“We realize you don’t replace players like Janay Morton and Phillis Webb, but this year’s version of Osseo girls’ basketball should be fun to watch,” Rieser said. “We may struggle a bit early on in the season, but the coaching staff is very excited about the young talent we have on our roster.”
Contact Bob San at [email protected]