BEMIDJI -- For the first time under head coach Steve Schreiber, everyone within the Bemidji High School girls basketball program has had the same upbringing.
“It just comes down to leadership, but it also comes down to these girls now being in year four of my system. The seniors this year, that’s all they’ve known in high school basketball,” Schreiber said. “… They just know our expectations. Instead of me having to work through our expectations and sell them on it, they’re bought in.”
The Lumberjacks are set to begin the 2019-20 season on Tuesday, and it marks the start of a year with plenty of budding expectations.
“If you ask the girls, I think they’ll tell you that if we don’t make it to the section championship game, we’d be disappointed,” Schreiber said. “I think we’re somewhere between a 16- and a 20-win team.”
BHS went 16-11 a year ago, which ended in a Section 8-3A semifinal defeat to eventual champion Fergus Falls. Bemidji’s 16 wins were its most since the 2009-10 squad that clinched the program’s most recent section title.
Now, the Jacks have the pieces to further last year’s success.
“We have post players this year, we have wings, we have guards,” Schreiber said. “We’re definitely not going to be a one-dimensional team. We’re going to be able to mold ourselves to fit the situation. That’s going to be the funnest thing for me.”
This year BHS will be without Rumer Flatness, the program’s second all-time leading scorer who posted a team-high 14.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season. But senior guards Lindsey Hildenbrand (11.7 ppg) and Katie Alto (9.8 ppg) are in place to make up for the lost production.
And they’re not the only two, Schreiber said.
“Lindsey and Katie, obviously we’re going to lean on them on the court quite a bit. But the other three seniors -- Jenna (Jones), Taylor (Wade) and Ashley (Hofstad) -- those girls each bring something different.
“Jenna is going to open some eyes. She’s going to be a scorer. Ashley has scored at every single level she’s been at. It’s time for her to turn it up at the varsity level. And Taylor is going to give us that punch of energy whenever she’s in.”
The five comprise a balanced senior class. But with junior centers Rylie Jones and Emma Huberty, Bemidji will also have a true post presence that the team has lacked in years past. Add in junior guard Emily Wade and sophomore guards Jody Pemberton and Jackie Johnson -- all of whom have gotten their feet wet at the varsity level -- and Schreiber is excited to see what the unit can accomplish.
“We’ll be 10 deep, maybe 12 deep. It’s going to be kind of fun who comes out of that,” he said. “I don’t know that another team is going to bring something to the table that we can’t mold ourselves to fit. That makes it exciting as a coach.”
The Lumberjacks’ first test comes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 26, against Thief River Falls at the BHS Gymnasium. Tipoff will mark the seventh straight season that Bemidji has opened against the Prowlers, with last year’s win snapping a five-game losing streak.
As the Jacks hope to start out on the right foot, they know it’s just the first step in where they want to go.
“We’re really confident that by February, going into March, we’re going to be locked in and ready,” Schreiber said.