Stingy Stephen-Argyle defense paying off in wins
The Stephen-Argyle offense is about as middle-of-the-pack as it can get.
Of the 19 teams in Minnesota Section 8A girls high school basketball, eight are averaging more points than the 52.7 points a game averaged by the Storm.
Yet Stephen-Argyle sits atop the section, at 14-0 the lone undefeated team remaining in 8A, and is fifth in the Class A state QRF rankings.
Success is all about defense.
"We don't score a lot of points,'' S-A coach Dan Lindgren said. "I think we have the capabilities of scoring more. But we rely on our defense.
"Defense is embedded in our kids' heads. It's what we've always preached.''
The Storm defense consistently has been good. Stephen-Argyle has held all its opponents to fewer points than their current season average.
In 10 games, the Storm have held their opponent below its season average by more than 10 points. Those have come against quality teams such as Warren-Alvarado-Oslo (11-1 this season), Red Lake (10-4), Class AA East Grand Forks Senior High (10-4) and North Dakota Class B powers Grafton (11-1) and Langdon-Edmore-Munich (10-2).
The Storm play primarily man-to-man, a challenge that fits the players.
"It's a mindset,'' said senior Abi McGlynn, a UND volleyball recruit. "We're all really competitive. We want to hold teams to 45 points or less. It doesn't matter who you are guarding. You know you have a job—to stop them.
"Defense really does win games. Obviously, you have to score some points. But we don't need to go out and score 70. We feel we're going to win if we play good defense. That creates turnovers and more scoring opportunities. The points will come.''
McGlynn (19.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 35 steals) is joined in the starting lineup by seniors Savannah Riopelle (8.8 ppg, 5 rpg, 4.8 apg, 30 steals), Abbey Johnson (4.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 31 steals) and Mikayla Bolduc (1 ppg) and freshman Riley Mooney (10 ppg, 4.5 rpg). Bolduc generally draws the defensive assignment of opponents' top non-post scorers.
Lindgren said the defensive success has been a combination of the players' athleticism, tenacity and intelligent play.
"They do whatever they can to stay in front of the player they're guarding and get a hand in a shooter's face,'' Lindgren said. "It's the little things, like making players use their opposite hands, rebounding to limit teams to one shot, things that all add up at the defensive end.
"It's one of our better defensive teams, and I feel we've had some very good defensive teams. This group probably has a little more speed.''
The defense has been a necessity. Stephen-Argyle has been held to 50 or fewer points in six games. The result has been several close games—four wins by margins of six or fewer points, the closest a 51-45 overtime win against Grafton.
But the Storm keep winning.
"I think we like playing defense more than offense,'' McGlynn said. "When you stop somebody, when you can hold a team below its scoring average, it's more rewarding.''