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Bucks learning on the fly


1A girls hoops — St. Paul girls tough pre-season schedule will prepare them for league play this week

The St. Paul girls basketball team lost three of four games in their first full week of action, but head coach Michael Murphy isn’t too concerned.

The combination of a young team and a tough pre-season schedule has Murphy looking past the team’s 2-3 record as the girls get ready to start league play this week.

“(In) the competition level — we played Valley Catholic, and they’ll probably contend for the 3A title,” Murphy said. “Western Mennonite will probably contend for the 2A title, and Condon will probably contend for the 1A title.”

The Buckaroos played — and lost — to all three of those teams in a five-day span last week.

The team dropped a 57-25 game to Valley Catholic (2-1) Dec. 10 and followed with a 49-30 loss to Western Mennonite (3-0) the next evening. St. Paul took a night off before traveling to the Condon Christmas Tournament, where they finished the week with a 38-29 loss to the hosting Condon/Wheeler Knights (4-0).

Sandwiched between the losses was a 37-28 victory over Powder Valley (2-2) Friday to open the tournament. The Bucks started the game slow, Murphy said, and faced a five-point deficit at the half before the team rallied with an impressive third-quarter run.

“It was like a different team,” Murphy said. “It was like the light came on and they started to do what they were capable of doing.”

The Bucks built an 11-point lead and kept the Badgers at arm’s length for the final eight minutes of the game to earn their second win of the season against the Knights Saturday.

Although the game against Condon was the team’s fourth contest in five nights, Murphy didn’t think fatigue played a factor in the loss.

“They competed,” he said. “I don’t think that was a big issue.”

The Bucks started slow once again and were forced to battle back from an eight-point deficit at the half. St. Paul slowly chipped away at Condon’s lead to get within one point with 3:30 left in the game, but the team missed a couple of point-blank shots down the stretch, and the Knights rebuilt their lead and won by nine.

“Our younger kids made a couple of bad decisions, which they’ll learn from,” Murphy said. “The game was pretty close, really. I was pretty happy with the performance overall.”

Unlike previous seasons, this year’s Bucks team is loaded with young players with little experience at the varsity level. Although Murphy expects the team will make mistakes, he said he is looking forward to seeing how his team builds on those experiences over the course of the season.

“I think the experience of this early season will be invaluable early on, and you can already see kids making improvements and making adjustments,” he said. “Later in the season, we should be a little more disciplined and understand situations a little better.”

Leading the team is the senior duo of Sara Pierson and Jessica Wilmes, who have ample experience playing varsity ball in high-pressure scenarios after being part of previous St. Paul playoff teams.

“Our leadership has been really strong,” Murphy said. “(Pierson) and (Wilmes) are doing a great job leadership-wise. Even when we make a mistake, those two are the first over there talking to them about it, and they’re a couple of great role models.”

The Bucks began league play on the road Tuesday against C.S. Lewis Academy (results not available at press time), before returning home Friday night to host the Perrydale Pirates.