Seasoned Laker girls' basketball poised for success in 2008-09
The last time the Detroit Lakes girls' basketball team was on the court, they were a flip of the ball from going to their second-straight Class 3A state playoffs.
Unfortunately, the ball tipped the other way, instead sending Fergus Falls to state, in a closely-matched Section 8-3A championship game in which the Otters won 46-45.
Even though that near-loss left a bitter taste in the Lakers' mouths, it could prove to be a positive factor for the 2008-09 season with some added motivation.
There also could be a Big Sister Factor involved, as well.
"This team is motivated to get back to state," said DL head coach Mike Hoganson. "They want to set their own legacy and they have a big drive to get back to state."
There are five younger sisters on the team who's older siblings were integral players on the fourth-place state finishers two years ago.
Four of those younger sisters are now seniors and have some urgency of landing back in state.
But, as Hoganson pointed out, there's a lot of work to be done before even thinking that far ahead.
"This team wants to create their own identity and I believe they will do that," the DL coach said. "This is one of the better skilled groups I've had."
The Lakers boast of six seniors who each have a wide-range of varsity experience -- and five of them now know what it takes after reaching the section finals last year.
One of the strengths of this team is that they skilled and talented and not one really is head and shoulders above the other.
Scoring will be spread out, thus making it difficult for opposing defenses to focus on one or two certain players.
"We have a lot of players who can step up in any certain game," Hoganson said. "It will be hard for a team to focus on just one player."
This year, the Lakers even have gained an addition making this team more experienced and versatile than last year, which the transfer of senior Chelsea Bjerke (5-foot-7) from Pelican Rapids.
Bjerke is a two-year varsity player for the Vikings and Hoganson looks for her to add good depth and an array of skills to compliment the other Laker players.
"Chelsea is a nice addition," Hoganson said. "She can hit the perimeter shot and has good ball-handling skills. She is a versatile player in which she can play either the one, two (both guard positions) or three (forward) positions."
Senior point guard Abby Hoganson (5-6) will be the quarterback of the offense.
She possesses superior ball-handling skills, along with long-range shooting accuracy -- especially from the three-point range -- and more importantly, has developed valuable leadership ability.
She led the team with 309 points and hitting 33 three-pointers last season. Abby Hoganson also led the team with 111 assists.
"Abby is one of those players we understands their role," said Mike Hoganson, her father and coach. "She makes other players around her better and knows when to take the open shot, as well.
"We do expect a high number of assists with the good shooters we have."
Joining Hoganson in the backcourt is senior guard Dani Labine (5-4), who can be considered the team's three-point specialist after draining 29 last season.
"Dani is a clutch player and made some big shots down the stretch last year," Mike Hoganson said.
Another specialist will be senior Dana Bentley (5-4), who excelled on defense with her quick feet.
"She is one of the quickest players I've ever had and she covers a lot of ground," the DL coach said. "She will be our spark on defense."
The front court has a good mix of versatile players, who can take the ball outside and hit the 10-15 foot shots, while still being able to play the post.
Senior Robin Hutchinson (5-10) brings strong play inside, as her third-team high 143 rebounds in 2007-08 suggests.
She also can line up behind the three-point arc, with 14 three-pointers last year.
"Robin has a little of everything, she can shoot the three and also play inside," Hoganson said. "She's a tough kid like her sister (Betsy) and will be able to rebound for us."
Much like Hutchinson, senior Morgan Lof (6-0) can snap the nets from the perimeter and inside the paint. She is one of the tallest players on an undersized team.
She netted 247 points last year, including a team-high 192 rebounds.
"She is a good rebounder and we will be counting on Morgan (for rebounds)," Hoganson said. "Morgan is a good, long and athletic post player and if we can go inside with her and have success, we can go a long ways."
Behind the top six seniors, sophomores Taylor Tschieder (5-9) and Jennifer Matter (6-0) will provide depth in the front court, giving DL a couple more rebounders.
"Taylor is a strong player and is a slasher-type," Mike Hoganson said. "Jennifer will provide a good inside offensive game."
There also is a host of juniors who will give the Lakers a deep bench in Hannah Halbakken (5-11), Brooke Hestdalin (5-6), Ashlyn Jasken (5-8), Jalen Even (6-0) and Amalea Branden (5-11).
DL will primarily run a half-court defense, employing some traps and run and double schemes to force turnovers.
Rebounding will be important, since the Lakers will once again be a transition-running team -- forcing the ball upcourt for some higher-percentage shots.
"We'll get out and run," Mike Hoganson said. "But if we can't transition, we can pull up and run the offense and be patient. Making two or three passes opens up a good shot, but having four to five passes will give you a better shot."
The Lakers will enter the season as favorites in Section 8-3A, mostly because of the returning experience.
Thief River Falls also returns four of five starters, while top teams from last year like Fergus Falls lost the majority of their players.
DL will be on the road seven of their first nine games, starting with three-straight at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (Nov. 29), Thief River Falls (Dec. 2) and Crosby-Ironton (Dec. 5).
The 2008 Detroit Lakes girls' basketball schedule:
29 at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton
2 at Thief River Falls
5 at Crosby-Ironton
13 at Fergus Falls
16 at Staples-Motley
29-30 at Sartell Tournament
9 Pequot Lakes
15 Thief River Falls
17 Fergus Falls
23 at Park Rapids
30 at Wadena-Deer Creek
12 at Pequot Lakes
14 at Moorhead
17 Park Rapids
20 Wadena-Deer Creek
24 at Bemidji
26 at Hawley
3 Section quarterfinals TBD
7 Section semi's at St. Cloud Apollo
13 Section Finals at St. John's
18-21 State Tournament.