HALL: USE LOSSÂ AS âLOCKERÂ ROOM MATERIALâ
You’re the Menno Wolves girls basketball team and its adorning fans, and there is good news and there is bad news.
Let’s start with the bad.
Your 2019-2020 season ended a tad bit earlier than you were probably counting on thanks to a sub-par showing in the second round of the Region 5B Girls Basketball Tournament last week Tuesday, Feb. 25. To their credit, the Bridgewater-Emery Huskies brought their A Game in a 60-46 win, but let’s be honest: The Wolves didn’t play the kind of basketball that carried them to a 14-7 regular-season record and earned them the No. 4 seed in the region.
Now the good news.
Without a senior on the team, everybody will be back for another go-around in 2020-21, and if the players commit themselves to getting better during this offseason and remember the sting of last week’s defeat at the hands of the Huskies, next winter could be a fun one for the Wolves and their faithful.
“We have the talent to compete with anybody,” head coach Doug Hall told the Courier, “but we have to let that (loss to Bridgewater-Emery) resonate a little bit and know that we’ve got to get to work this summer. If they can do it, they’re going to be part of the conversation.”
By “part of the conversation,” Hall means counted among the favorites in a good and crowded Class B field, particularly in the Cornbelt Conference and surrounding territory. The Wolves saw tough competition this past season that will be the case again next year; “That does speak to the strength of our schedule,” the coach said, “and the quality of girls basketball in this part of the state.”
Last week’s region loss to Bridgewater-Emery was case in point. A young Huskies team was scrappier than the Wolves, shot better than the Wolves and took advantage of mistakes made by the Wolves.
“They’re not necessarily the better team,” Hall said of Bridgewater-Emery, “but they were that night.”
It looked like it would be a good night for Menno in the early minutes of last week’s region game as the Wolves used a pair of nothing-but-net three-pointers from sophomore Paityn Huber to help build an 8-0 lead. But the Huskies went on a 20-4 thereafter and held a 20-12 lead with five minutes to play in the first half and the Wolves never really recovered. Menno was still within striking distance at the half, trailing 21-27, but Bridgewater-Emery had seized momentum. By the time the Huskies opened up a 10-point lead several minutes into the third period, the writing was on the wall for Menno.
Too many shot attempts and shots made for the Huskies, and too many turnovers for the Wolves, was the story of the night.
“I don’t know if it was our inexperience or our youth or nerves or anxiousness,” said Hall. “I can’t put my finger on it; if I could, I probably would have changed something.”
Prior to the game, the coach talked about how wide open Region 5B was; about how any of the top six teams were capable of getting through to the SoDak 16. Bridgewater-Emery proved it with its convincing victory over Menno and near-upset against top-seed Irene-Wakonda two nights later; the Eagles ended up hanging on for a 52-46 win.
“It’s not like we lost to a nobody,” Hall said, “but you can’t play with that kind of inconsistency and beat a good team.”
The coach hopes the players use the offseason to let it sink in and return to the court later this year rejuvenated and focused. Maybe even use the loss as “locker room material” — something they can use to motivate them.
“Hopefully this is enough to drive them and be competitive against good teams, even when it’s not their best day,” Hall said. “We have to overcome some of these mental hurdles and focus on the goals and on each other.”
If the Wolves can accomplish that, they should be a dangerous team come 2020-21, and most definitely “part of the conversation.”