A pair of victories to open the season has provided proof to Kelliher-Northome girls basketball coach Justin Lundin that the Mustangs have what it takes to enjoy a successful season.
"We are small in numbers but we do have quality," Lundin said. "The girls also have great attitudes and are serious about basketball. Because of those qualities this group is fun to coach."
The Mustangs opened their campaign with a 57-36 win over Laporte and followed that victory with a 67-58 triumph over Blackduck.
"We played only six girls against Blackduck and three of them never left the court. And I was very impressed with them."
The six included senior captains Danielle Nistler and Hollea Boquist, juniors Kaley Lutz, Carrie Carrigan and Shelene Head plus sophomore Kelly Heck.
Senior captain Kristen White was unavailable for that game.
Also on the roster are junior Mandy Pula and Johanna Weiderborner, freshman Breanna Salmonson and eighth grader Megan Hudec.
"We have players with speed, especially at the guard positions," Lundin said. "We don't have much height but our girls are strong and can muscle inside to get the boards and the points."
Carrigan is an example of the Mustangs' power inside game as she grabbed 16 rebounds and scored 16 points against the Drakes. Heck led the offense with 25 points and Nistler contributed 12 points and three steals.
In the win over Laporte, Lutz had 20 points and Nistler 14. Carrigan snatched 10 rebounds and Boquist nine.
A year ago K-N compiled an 11-11 record and this year's group began the year with a mission to improve upon that mark.
"The girls have been working on their own all fall to get in shape for the basketball season," Lundin said. "And it has worked. This is the best shape I've ever seen a basketball team in and there is no doubt we are ahead of where most teams are at this stage of the season.
"As a coach I know the girls have potential and it is great to see them reaching that potential on their own."
Kelliher-Northome has a potent inside-outside game with Carrigan and Lutz patrolling the lane and Heck sniping from the outside. Nistler also provides a weapon with her ability to drive and her leadership in quarterbacking the offense.
"We have many leaders on the floor and it feels good knowing you have girls out there who you can trust," Lundin said.
If the Mustangs have a weakness it could be their bench.
"We are short on the bench but I think the bench will come along as the season progresses," the coach said.
Kelly Carlson takes over the program at Blackduck and she inherits a team that returns three starters. That group includes senior Alex Ziegler and juniors Tatum Mistic and Morgan Jung.
The team's other senior is co-captain Oxana Pfannenstein. The juniors include Cassidy Rockis while the sophomore cast features Madison Liapis, Brooke Mistic, Kristina Napieralski, Cassy Ferdig and Sadie Radke.
Completing the roster are freshmen Sasha Pfannenstein and Alex Arp.
Blackduck split its first two games, defeating Northland-Remer 61-57 but falling to Kelliher-Northome 67-58.
Carlson believes the Drakes will improve as the season continues, especially if they continue to work hard.
"I expect to see the girls going hard to the basket and taking control of rebounds," the coach said. "Our big challenge this year is our inexperience but I expect that to deteriorate as a challenge as the year goes on."
A glance at the Bagley girls basketball roster would indicate that the Flyers are inexperienced because the team does not have a senior.
But that would be a wrong assessment.
"A perceived weakness is that we do not have a senior but that doesn't mean that we are inexperienced," said Bagley coach Brandon Schwegel who begins his third year on the Flyers bench. "We do have seven letterwinners from a season ago and two all-conference players in Kari Skersick and Sean Benson.
Skersick is a sophomore and last year she averaged 13.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Benson, a junior, averaged seven points and 4.7 rebounds.
"Both of them will play in the post and will generate much of the Flyers scoring," Schwegel said.
Juniors Jasmin Nelson and Courtney Cosca were honorable mention all-conference selections last winter and will provide valuable experience this season.
Other returning letterwinners are junior Hannah Neeland and sophomores Bailey Fultz and Jaysha Pemberton.
Completing the roster are juniors April Klema and C.J. Loy plus sophomore Sam Olson.
A year ago the Flyers posted a 15-13 record and Schwegel is hoping that this winter's team can build upon that success.
"Our strength is that we are a very athletic team which has several guards who will play major roles in putting pressure on the ball," the coach said.
Bagley dropped its first two games this season, losing 68-62 to Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and 72-52 to Win-E-Mac.
The inability to convert close-range shots has been a problem for the Panthers in recent years and coach Bill Kane is hoping that this year's team will fare better in that offensive statistic.
"We need to score with the ball inside to allow our outside shooters to get open," Kane said. "We tend to miss many easy bunnies inside and we have to make those shots."
CL-B improved in that area during its season opener as the Panthers reached the 60-point mark in a 65-62 loss at Lake of the Woods.
Freshman Mariah Reyes led the way with 14 points and six assists while Justine Jourdain had 10 points and 10 boards.
"The girls played well," Kane said. "We just had too many fouls and gave Lake of the Woods too many free throws."
Cass Lake-Bena was whistled for 27 fouls which resulted in 19 Lake of the Woods points.
This year's roster includes seniors Stephanie Masten, Nicole Collins, Valerie Rodriguez, Kaylee Brunelle, Joy Smith and Jordan Jackson.
The junior cast features Jourdain, Nakita Nicazio, Mariah O'Brien, Adrianne Cloud and Cheylynn Rodriquez.
Shantell Jourdain is the lone sophomore while Reyes, Kandice Davis-LaRose and Meghan Brun are the freshmen.
Masten and Smith will serve as the captains.
"We are looking at a much improved team this year," Kane said. "We should be able to cut down on the number of turnovers and have a more balanced scoring attack.
"We also have much more depth in our lineup," the coach continued. "We have six seniors and they will provide leadership for our younger players."
Laporte began the year with a pair of losses, fallng at Kelliher-Northome 57-36 and dropping a 73-48 decision at Verndale.
The Wildcats, who are coached by Melissa Rairdon, are led by seniors Renny Lyn Ala, Edie Johnson, Biancha Langaas, Kim Corson, Kelli Corson and Valynncia White. Salina Peck is the lone junior while Jacey Hegg, Savanna Day, Amber Baker and Talia Molash are the sophomores and Neka Davis the only freshman.
The Warriors dropped their opener 49-21 at Warroad.
The team includes seniors Ontique Matt, Jasmine Deegan, Mari Cobenais, Serena Graves, Alyss Mountain and Chelsey Redbear. The juniors are Summer Isham, Faleisha Desjarlait, Amy Benais and Taylor Dickenson while Sara Mountain is the only sophomore.
Also listed on the roster are eighth grader Aven Holthusen and seventh grader Grace White.