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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Defensive intimidator

MUNICH, N.D. - Coaches here have threatened to make Brittany Wirth do extra calisthenics because of her offensive play in practices. The problem isn't that Wirth is shooting too much or not passing. It's just the opposite - coaches have threatene...

MUNICH, N.D. - Coaches here have threatened to make Brittany Wirth do extra calisthenics because of her offensive play in practices.

The problem isn't that Wirth is shooting too much or not passing. It's just the opposite - coaches have threatened disciplinary measures because she won't shoot as often as they've repeatedly encouraged her to shoot.

"I haven't had to do any extra push-ups yet," Wirth said. "I am pretty timid (on offense). I know I probably should shoot more. I'd say I could use a little more confidence."

Opponents probably have a similar lack of confidence when playing the Starkweather-Munich girls high school basketball team. With Wirth's shot-blocking skills, field-goal percentages tend to suffer against the Magic Storm.

Wirth is averaging 7.9 blocks, 5.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for the 3-6 Magic Storm. Twice, she's had triple doubles in scoring, rebounding and blocks.

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"Brittany is taller than just about everybody we play," Starkweather-Munich coach Kevin Bennefeld said. "But that's not the only reason she blocks shots. She understands the game. She really knows how to time her jump to get a block. And she's a good jumper.

"Brittany's not a hard blocker. She doesn't knock the ball out of bounds. Most of the time, she'll just tip the ball up, then she'll grab the rebound."

Wirth is listed on programs as standing 5 feet, 11 inches in height. In fact, she's closer to 6-2. Wirth is comfortable with her height.

"A couple of years ago, I was somewhat (self-conscious) about being taller than my classmates," said Wirth, who was a point guard in junior high before hitting a growth spurt and shooting up to 6 feet in height as a freshman. "And sometimes it's not so good being tall, like when I'm trying to find clothes that are long enough for me. And a lot of people ask me how tall I really am - I don't like that attention sometimes.

"But overall, my height is good. It's good for basketball and volleyball."

Blocking is Wirth's game. She had 139 blocks, along with 400 kills, for the North Star volleyball team that was Region 4 runner-up last fall.

Basketball is a different kind of challenge because it's a more physical game.

"Brittany is just a nice person," Bennefeld said. "In some ways, that hurt her. She's not overly aggressive. I'd like to see her get more physical, to not allow other players to push her around so much. But, at the same time, she does a wonderful job of blocking their shots."

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Said Wirth: "Blocking shots is probably my strongest area. And I think it frustrates other girls when they're blocked - I know I get frustrated it I get blocked. I don't like it."

Not that Wirth gives teams a lot of opportunities to block her attempts. She's averaging only 12 field-goal attempts per game, making 49 percent of them.

"In practice, she's our best shooter," Bennefeld said. "But we have to get on her to be a little more selfish. I'd like to see her taking around 20 shots a game. From 10 feet and in, she's tough to stop. Brittany is capable of averaging 20-22 points a game, but she passes up shots."

For Wirth, basketball notoriety has come not from the shots she takes, but from the opponents' shots she stuffs.

DeVillers can be reached at (800) 477-6572, ext. 128, (701) 780-1128 or by e-mail at gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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