LESTER PRAIRIE, MN The Lester Prairie-Holy Trinity Bulldogs girls’ basketball team is one of a few undefeated teams left standing after the high school winter break.
But for Bulldogs’ coach Mike Lee, being undefeated was not their main goals this season.
“Our goal has never been to be or go undefeated,” said Lee. “Our goal is to play the best basketball we can and to try our best to win every game we play. We just happen not to have lost yet.”
He seems to have instilled that same mindset into his players.
“We are happy with being undefeated, but we’re always working towards that last game,” said senior point guard Karlea Kyllo.
“That last game” is referring to the state tournament championship game, but the Bulldogs have to get to the state tournament first. The last time they made it to the state tournament was in 1982.
While Lee has done a great job at keeping his players focused and grounded, there is no denying that there could potentially be something very special brewing in the gymnasium this winter.
The Bulldogs’ offense has picked up the production over the last few weeks, as they scored over 63 points in five consecutive games and are now averaging 65.9 points per game through the first 11 games. They have outscored opponents by 247 points, and have won five games by 33 or more points, including one each by 40, 43, and 47 points.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are allowing just 43.4 points per game, another reason why they are 11-0.
“Coach has us really focused on playing as a team, as one,” said junior forward Madi Radtke. “We put a lot of emphasis on that each day in practice, and it’s really showing in our play.”
Senior forward Harley Hentges agrees, and added that their closeness to one another helps, especially on the court.
“We’ve been playing together since third or fourth grade, and we have been able to grow as a team over that time,” said Hentges. “We know each other really well, where one another is going to be on the court.”
Their willingness to be not good, but great teammates, has given them a leg up on the competition.
“We are always looking for one another, and we always want to make the extra pass,” said Radtke.
Junior guard Steph Lohse attributes the team’s great continuity to “pushing each other to the limit,” like she does to opposing players on defense.
“We love to push each other, said Lohse, “whether it’s in practice or games, we know where we are lacking, so push each other to get better in those areas.”
They do a tremendous job sharing the ball, as evidence by their high assist numbers (14.5 assists per game), and they run good, efficient offense that leads to easy buckets.
On offense, the Bulldogs are led by a four-headed monster Shelby Fasching, Hope Feltmann, Radtke, and Kyllo who combine for 56.7 points and 26.1 rebounds per game.
It all starts with Kyllo. She averages 15.9 points and 3.3 steals per game, and her ability to frustrate opposing point guards, find the open player on offense, and score can give any opponent a headache.
Versatility is a huge advantage in sports, especially basketball, and the Bulldogs are lucky enough to have two players Feltmann and Radtke who can stuff the stat-sheet, and can guard and play multiple positions. The two players have combined to average 28.1 points, 14.4 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game. Both players have been more than exceptional on defense this season, and are very good in transition, where they can lead the break and finish at the basket.
And, of course, anchoring the defense in the middle is Fasching. The 6-foot-3 Fasching has been a rock this season, averaging 12.7 points, eight rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. Even when she isn’t blocking shots, putting her hands up is more than enough to disturb or deter opponents from shooting shots in the paint.
The Bulldogs are just more than four players, though.
Lohse is the defensive ace, with the ability to frustrate the opposing team’s offense any given time down the floor. Hentges provides leadership and is always looking to make the right play for her teammates.
Respect for one another goes along way into building and having a successful team, but they aren’t to get on one another.
“We have a ton of respect for one another,” said Radtke. “We are pretty much a family on and off the court, where we can tell each other pretty much anything. We always text each other, and are always talking to one another.”
Normally, the holidays are a time of relaxation and rest for most players, and no doubt the Bulldogs got some much-needed R&R, but they had some work to do during the holidays.
They competed in a holiday tournament in Pelican Rapids, and faced some of their stiffest competition this season.
They have had three games decided by six points or less this season, and two of them came in their holiday tournament.
Good teams win close games, and the Bulldogs have proved that by going 3-0 in such games.
Getting the opposing team’s best shot is something Lee and the Bulldogs know, but they also know that they still have to be ready.
“We know every team is going try to beat us,” said Lee. “But, at the same time, the opponent knows that we are going to try to win every game we play.”
The girls are convinced that they haven’t played their best basketball yet.
“We should be playing our best basketball during late February and March,” said Kyllo.
Lee agrees with his senior leader.
“I believe we have played consistently good basketball this season,” said Lee. “However, I feel that the best is yet to come. I hope we are playing our best basketball at the end of the season. “
At this time, the Bulldogs don’t want to look too far into the future, particularly to the Jan. 19 date with Maranatha Christian Academy. But, the girls will admit they are looking forward to that game.
“It’s a big game for us,” said Radtke, “it’s always the one game we look forward to playing.”
But, just as their coach has taught them, they aren’t overlooking any team.
“We take it one game at a time,” said Lohse.
It seems like the Bulldogs are in position to make a tremendous run. They have it all size, speed, skill and each other’s back.
“We have preached ‘team, team, team’ from Day One,” said Lee. “It is a special thing to play on and coach a team which everyone puts the goal of the team ahead of any individual goal(s).”
Individuals get awards, but teams get victories. Lee knows it, and is getting his players to understand it.
“The girls are understanding that it takes a team to win and no one player can win or lose a game,” said Lee. “It has been really fun to watch the girls play at times, as if they were one.”
In the end, all that matters to them is whether they “that last game.”
The Bulldogs have made their way up to No. 6 in the Class A poll, and are ranked No. 2 in *Quality Results Formula, behind only Goodhue (10-1).
*For more information about QRF, CLICK HERE