BY MIKE ANDREW
FOR THE PIONEER
The first week of the new year for the Orono girls basketball team pitted them against neighboring 4A-power Wayzata and conference and section rival Hutchinson.
In the first game, the Spartans found themselves battling against the taller Trojans throughout.
Orono trailed by five at the half, 24-19, in a game that was very physical. However, they adjusted after coming out of the half and pulled ahead by as many as six points with six minutes to go.
Wayzata settled in and pulled back ahead with just 11 seconds remaining. Orono had the ball out of bounds and executed well, as Natalie Smaron settled in for a game tying layup. The Trojans quickly pushed the ball up court and Mimi Schrader banked in a tough runner with just two seconds to go to give Wazata the win.
Even though it marked a third consecutive defeat to 4A teams, Head Coach Lavesa Glover was pleased with the growth of her young team, noting “tremendous growth.”
“In a tough battle with Wayzata,” she continued, “we got a lot tougher and had more focus on shooting at a high percentage.”
Smaron continued her domination on the boards, ripping down 14 rebounds, while guards Tori Andrew (18 points) and Madeline Loder (17 points) paced the Spartan scoring.
Following the Wayzata game, Orono traveled to play Hutchinson, who began the season as the top ranked team in class 3A.
The Hutch-Orono matchup included a remarkable 54 foul calls. Hutchinson shot 38 free throws and Orono starters Loder and Smaron went to the bench early in the first half, each with three fouls apiece.
Nonetheless, even with the opportunity to score with the clock stopped, the Tigers were unable to overcome the shooting of the Spartans.
Loder scored 12 of Orono’s first 14 points, on her way to a career night. The junior guard finished 12-of-15 from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw line, for 33 points, a career high.
Sophomore point guard Jordan Case also scored a career high with 11 points. Andrew added 28 points and 11 rebounds.
Orono pushed the lead to more than twenty points several times in the second half and seemed to be cruising towards an easy win until Hutchinson began to have success with its trapping press, its repeated ability to drive and draw fouls and Orono having empty possessions.
Aided by key late rebounds from Ellen Nehotte and two baskets from Natalie Brekken, Orono held on to win by 10.
After the positive steps she saw in the Wayzata game, Coach Glover was clear with the lessons learned against Hutchinson, saying while “Hutchinson is always a battle, it made it very obvious that we need to focus on taking care of the ball and have more pride in having productive possessions.”
The coming week allows for several opportunities, as Orono plays three games in five days, beginning with conference-foe New Prague, 4A fifth-ranked Edina and 3A third-ranked Kasson-Mantorville.