Girls Basketball: Wingers ready to soar againRed Wing will start the 2012-13 season as back-to-back Class 3A state participants, but the Wingers begin with question marks.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing will start the 2012-13 season as back-to-back Class 3A state participants, but the Wingers begin with question marks.
Possessing a Division I athlete can cover up some of those flaws and shortcomings: University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit Tesha Buck returns for her senior season. Red Wing will rely on Buck, Macy Kelly and McKenna Schaffer to guide a young team lacking height and seasoning.
“We’ve got three seniors back that started last year,” Wingers head coach Dave Muelken said. “We’ve got a lot of experience back, so we’ll be counting on them to shoulder the load, they’ll be the leaders.”
Buck, an All-State honorable mention pick last season, enters the season as Red Wing’s career leader in points scored with 1,678, and Kelly will be asked to take on more of the scoring load after finishing first and third, respectively, on the team in points per game last season. They will need to make up for graduated players A.J. Lafond and 2011-12 Republican Eagle Player of the Year and All-State honorable mention player Marisa Toivonen.
“Obviously we’ve got scoring with Tesha and Macy,” Muelken said of Buck, who averaged 17.4 points per game last season, and Kelly, who scored 12.3 points per game. “I think Tesha and Macy will have to increase their performance, not from an effort standpoint. Their numbers need to increase. They’ll have to make others better.”
“I like getting my teammates involved,” Buck added. “Obviously the points are going to come, but doing the little things that get your teammates better, getting a loose ball and getting helped up by your teammates; that gets me more pumped up than anything else.”
Last season, Toivonen averaged 17.1 points per game, a team-leading 9.57 rebounds per game and 2.13 blocks per game. She also shot 71.6 percent from the free-throw line on 225 attempts.
Lafond filled in the box score with more than six points, three rebounds, two assists and nearly two steals a game.
“For Marisa, she was a double-double most nights, so that will be hard to fill, but we’re going to have some girls step up this year and then A.J.’s length on defense was to our advantage so we’re going to have fill that spot, too,” Kelly said.
On defense, the Wingers will count on Buck’s length to disrupt other teams, along with Schaffer’s on-the-ball defense, and Red Wing will need constant ball pressure to counter the stream of big post players it will face.
“We’re going to have a ton of ball pressure,” Muelken said. “Teams can’t just walk the ball down the court and throw it down to a 6-foot, 4-inch post player. If we just let them do that and think we can stand behind them, we’re going to be in trouble.
“(Buck) anticipates well and she’s got long arms so putting her up on the top applying pressure and creating problems protects us on the back side a little bit because they can’t just stand there and throw it down,” he added.
Once Buck is able to interrupt pass, the Wingers must swarm to the ball, Muelken said.
“If she just tips it, we’ve got a loose ball situation,” he said, “and I think that’s where we’ll be very good.”
Buck averaged 3.48 steals last year and tallied 40 blocks to go along with 6.19 rebounds a game. Muelken said Red Wing needs to get 80 percent of the “50-50” balls that take place in a game to make up for its lack of size.
Once the Wingers make a stop on the defensive end, they will look to push the ball quickly up court and maximize offensive possessions.
“We’re going to run like crazy,” Kelly said. “We don’t have the height so we have to be the fastest team out there.”
If the Wingers want to get back to the state tournament, the first two weeks of the season will be a barometer for how well they stack up against the best competition in the state. The Wingers host a tip-off tournament Friday and Saturday and face four Section 1AAA opponents in the first week of the season. Then Red Wing will take on Lakeville South, Minneapolis Roosevelt and Eastview before a difficult Missota Conference schedule begins. Eastview finished last season ranked 10th in Class 4A.
“We really don’t get a night off and have a team where we can just show up and beat anybody on our schedule,” Muelken said. “We can compete with anyone because at the high end with Macy and Tesha, we have as good as anybody has on the floor. We have very dynamic players.”
The Wingers start the season Friday against Waseca at 5 p.m. in Red Wing and will face either Goodhue or River Falls Saturday.