Champlin Park head girls basketball coach Josh Steck was unsure how his team would perform in 2016-17.
The Rebels lost Hannah Crymble, their 1,300-point scorer, to graduation, and guard Allison Gerads was coming back from an ACL tear.
As it turns out, the Rebels played about as well as Steck could have hoped, and Champlin Park posted a 21-7 overall record in 2016-17.
“This was a big year, and the first year they have had 20 wins in 10-plus years,” Steck said. “We didn’t know how good we would be this year, we obviously had to replace Hanna Crymble, who was a big part of this program and this culture and someone you could rely on.
“We had to figure out who the next kid was going to be that would step up.
“We went with Makayla Johnson, who had a very good year, but it also helps when Erica Hicks, who averaged only 12 to 13 points, is now averaging 20,” Steck added. “We also got [Allison Gerads] back and it was a question of how well she would play because she didn’t start playing until September-ish.“
The Rebels played so well, in fact, that they earned the No. 2 seed in the Section 5AAAA tournament.
After a 56-41 victory kicked off the tournament, the Rebels’ season ended with a 62-46 loss to Centennial March 4.
“In the first half we were 1-for-14 in the paint and 3-for-10 from three,” Steck said. “A lot of our offense and how we get going is by scoring layups and when we’re not scoring layups that’s tough.
“A couple kids didn’t show up defensively as well as we thought they would.”
Despite the season-ending loss, Steck is proud of the way his team performed this year.
“Looking back we had a great season and I can’t complain as a coach,” Steck said. “There are one or two losses I would like to have back, but the games we weren’t supposed to win, we won and games we should have lost, we lost except for one or two.
“There were great parents, great families and it was a great year.”
The loss ended the Champlin Park careers of seniors Gerads, Megan Hanson, and Katie Cummings.
“Al is someone I have known since seventh grade, I coached the program she played for in summer AAU, and I was excited when I was hired on staff here because she is a great kid and a great athlete” Steck said. “Katie and Megan meant a lot, but Al started from day one and started every game she could.
“She is a kid that will go down in Rebel history as one of the better kids that has gone through our school.”
Despite having only three seniors on the team, Steck will be looking for more of his players to step up next season, as he will need someone to replace Gerads’ production.
“We only played seven kids late in the season,” Steck said. “It’s all about who is going to step up and replace Al.
“Not a lot of kids will have varsity experience, but it’s all about using the summer to get better both offensively and defensively, while also getting stronger.”
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.