N.D. GIRLS CLASS B STATE BASKETBALL TOURNEY: Lakota/Adams-Edmore coach Berg surprised by level of success
Jonathan Berg had good reason to expect improvements on his Lakota/Adams-Edmore girls basketball team. After all, there wasn't a senior in the starting lineup on last season's 9-12 team. Based on experience alone, the Raiders figured to increase ...
Jonathan Berg had good reason to expect improvements on his Lakota/Adams-Edmore girls basketball team.
After all, there wasn't a senior in the starting lineup on last season's 9-12 team. Based on experience alone, the Raiders figured to increase their win total.
"It was the first time on the varsity level for a lot of the girls last year," Berg said. "There were some growing pains. We figured to be better just because of the experience we gained."
Better? That unit that was 9-12 last season is now sitting with a 21-4 record. That team that was two-and-out at the District 7 tournament a year ago is now one of the final eight teams still playing in North Dakota Class B.
After winning the Region 4 championship last week, Lakota/Adams-Edmore is heading to Bismarck, where it will play Grafton at approximately 2:45 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals of the state high school tournament.
"We figured to be above .500," Berg said. "I thought we'd be competitive. But to say we expected to be 21-4 better -- I don't think you could expect that.
"I know teams have turnaround years, showing great improvement from one season to the next. But I don't think you see many turnarounds in one year like we've had. It's been a pretty amazing run."
A look at the state tournament field shows what great strides the Raiders made. Six of the eight qualifiers had 16 or more wins last season. Only Shiloh Christian, which was 12-11 last season, was close to L/A-E's improvement.
"We came into the year knowing we had the potential to be better,'' junior Ashtin Freije said. "You always hope for a great season. I don't want to say no, we didn't expect this. But I didn't know if it could happen. And now that it has happened, it's pretty crazy."
Big sister act
The biggest factor in the success of the Raiders has been the play of sisters Ashtin and Fallyn Freije, who were the top returning players from a year ago.
Fallyn, a 5-foot-11 freshman, has emerged as a dominant post player. She averages 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2 blocks a game -- improvements from a year ago (15.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg) when she was an all-District 7 pick.
"Fallyn's strong, has good moves around the basket and she's smart," Berg said. "She's a dominant post player. And she's expanded her game. She can hit the outside shots."
Ashtin's numbers are comparable to last season. Her scoring is down slightly (11.1 ppg after averaging 12.2 a year ago) while her assists are up (4.1 apg after averaging 3.3 a year ago). But statistics don't tell the whole story.
"Ashtin sees the floor so well,'' Berg said. "She gets all the girls involved in the offense. Her scoring is down a little because she's become more of a playmaker. And she still hit a lot of big shots.''
Rounding out the starting five are Erica Anderson (7.2 ppg), Mary Haman (5.4 ppg) and Holli Lee (5.9 ppg). "They do more than what their scoring averages might indicate,'' Berg said. "Each of them has had some big games. Erica's outside shooting stretches defenses out.''
Berg said other reasons for the turnaround have been the team's solid defense and some early season success that built confidence.
Ashtin also looks to an intangible. "We're all on the same page,'' Freije said. "I think that's because we know each other better. We spend a lot of time together. It's great to play on a team with your best friends.''
Coaches in the know
None of the Raiders have played in a state basketball tournament. That doesn't mean the program is without that sort of experience, however.
Berg played on the Park River team that finished sixth in the 2000 Class B boys state basketball tournament. Assistant coach Doug Freije, the father of Ashtin and Fallyn, played in three Class B boys state basketball tournaments (1980-82) for Edmore.
"Going through the regional tournament, Doug and I talked to the girls about our state tournament experiences," Berg said. "We told them how to try to handle the pressure situations, how every play -- every shot, every rebound, every turnover -- was amplified at tournament time.
"We tried to use our experience to help the kids keep focused, to not panic if something went wrong."
The coaches' experience is past tense. For the Raiders, the experience is the now.
"We'll joke around with them," Ashtin Freije said. "We'll say stuff like, 'Yeah, you were there. Now it's our turn.' ''
DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .