Taking a huge step forward in 2018-19 the Redwood Valley girls basketball team will look to build on its Section 3AA title and state tournament berth heading into next season.
Sophomores Haley Garman and Sydney Sommers were recently named to the Big South West All-Conference first team after leading the Cardinals to a memorable run to state.
Garman led the team in scoring (18.9 ppg), rebounding (10.6 rpg) and field goal percentage (61 percent) and surpassed 1,000 career points with two full seasons left to play.
Sommers was the floor general for the Cards, averaging 14.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg and 2.8 apg and coming up clutch in the postseason.
The senior trio of Amy Martius, Caitlyn Johnson and Bri Panitzke all had a big hand in getting the Cards to state. Martius was second on the team with 5.5 ppg and also averaged 2.2 rpg and 3.0 apg. Johnson averaged 3.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg and 1.5 apg, and Panitzke averaged 2.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg and 3.0 apg. Sophomore Aubree Hicks averaged 3.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg and 2.0 apg and flashed her potential in a big way during the postseason, coming up big from the free throw line and beyond the arc.
Fellow sophomores Hannah Schjenken (2.0 ppg, 1.1 rpg and 1.1 apg) and AJ Guggisberg (2.6 ppg, 1.0 rpg) along with junior Leah Irlbeck (2.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg and 1.0 apg) all played well and will step into bigger roles next season.
For Head Coach Taya Kockelman, it was a memorable run for a program that was just 2-25 two season ago.
“I thought the girls really had an amazing year,” Kockelman said. “I’m so proud of this group of girls. They proved a lot of people wrong and always believed they could do it.”
Some quality wins during the regular season helped the Cardinals learn how to deal with big game situations that ultimately helped them rise to the occasion when it mattered most.
“We beat some very strong teams in our conference and section throughout the year,” Kockelman said. “We dropped some hard fought games that helped us learn, grow and ultimately to prepare us for the end of the season.”
Following gritty wins over conference rivals JCC and Pipestone Area to reach the Section championship, the Cards then essentially dominated unbeaten Eden Valley-Watkins for the title.
“Going into the EVW game our girls were very nervous, yet determined,” Kockelman said. “All we kept talking about is we are one game away from the state tournament. “Our seniors had every intention to get us there. They kept everyone focused and engaged during practice. Beating EVW was a huge moment not only for this year, but for the program and years to come. Our girls were on a mission to get to the state tournament and proved to be one of the best teams in the state.”
At state the Cards drew top-seed Roseau in the first round and would battle them till the very end in an epic game.
“At the state tournament we battled and showed why we deserved to be there. Roseau was a tough draw, but nobody backed down. They stepped up to the challenge and once again battled to the end of the game with a very good number one ranked team,” Kockelman said. “We ended our season against Proctor. We made a great run just a little too late in the game. I am so proud of this group of girls. They proved a lot of people wrong and always believed that we could do it.
"Our program will definitely miss our six seniors: Bri, Caitlyn, Amy, Harlee (Ahrens), Jenna (Pendleton) and Breanna (Beran) have changed this program and left a great legacy as they go. I know they are going to do amazing things.”