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Paynesville Press - November 23, 2005

Dogs to open hoops season against Kimball

By Michael Jacobson

The West Central Conference North gets a lot tougher in girls' basketball in 2005-06. Two strong programs - New London-Spicer and Minnewaska - join the conference this winter, posing a great challenge to a Paynesville team that lost its top three scorers to graduation.

With the addition of three schools to the West Central Conference, both NL-S and Minnewaska shifted to the North Division in 2005-06. In girls' basketball, that strengthens the conference quite a bit. NL-S has won two state titles and made 13 trips to state since 1985, though they had their string of four straight state appearances end last year. Minnewaska has made four trips to state in girls' basketball since 1995, most recently in 1999.

Last year, NL-S won the West Central Conference South by going undefeated in ten conference games, while Minnewaska finished second at 8-2 with their only losses coming to NL-S.

The WCC North already featured Albany, which went undefeated in conference last year and made their third straight trip to state, finishing third in Class AA.

The Bulldogs hope to be "as competitive as they can in the conference, which is going to be tougher," said coach Jackie Parsley.

A key challenge will be scoring for the Bulldogs, who lost their top three scorers to graduation: guards Kim Hess and Kendra Johnson and forward Brittany Lieser. This trio averaged 26.9 points per game last year, which comprised 60 percent of the team's total.

Parsley said the Dogs will need returning starters Ashley Lieser and Lynn Lieser, both seniors, to score more and hope to get more production from junior Kristin Lang in the post. Lang showed flashes of scoring ability last year and will hopefully prove more consistent this year, said Parsley.

The return of senior Brooke Schmitz to the team could also be another source of offense.

The Dogs, 5-18 last year, including 3-7 in the WCC North, lost a lot of quickness and scoring last year, said Parsley, but they should be taller and longer this year with Lang moving into the starting lineup and with the return of Schmitz at guard. The Dogs plan to play more zone this year to better use that height and length.

In all, 29 players are out for girls' basketball this winter, with the varsity roster currently featuring 11 players. In addition to Lang, the two Liesers, and Schmitz, other varsity players are: seniors Amber Jensen and Allyson Klenke; juniors Marissa Mackedanz, Kirsten Miller, Randi Schaefer, and Jacque Schlangen; and sophomore Brittni Schmitz. (Additionally, sophomore Natalie Leadem might see varsity action this year, said Parsley.)

This year, high school basketball games will switch from four eight-minute quarters to two 18-minute halves. With teams having the same number of timeouts (three full timeouts and two 30-second ones), this change will lengthen the playing time by two minutes per half while subtracting one break.

The Dogs have been working on conditioning during practice, which started on Monday, Nov. 14, to prepare for these longer halves, said Parsley, who also expects to play more substitutes. "It's a matter of going deeper on the bench or using more timeouts," she said.

Albany and NL-S figure to be the favorites in the conference, with Minnewaska possibly challenging these top teams, said Parsley.

With the addition of NL-S and Minnewaska, the Dogs will now play 14 conference games in basketball. Last year, the Dogs played both NL-S and Minnewaska as nonconference games (losing to both), so this addition of conference games meant paring only two nonconference games from the Dogs' 2005-06 schedule. (The Dogs lost nonconference games against Dassel-Cokato and Holdingford due to the increased conference slate.)

New London-Spicer, which eliminated the Dogs from the playoffs last year, remains the section favorite.

The Dogs will open their season next week against Kimball at home on Tuesday, Nov. 29. The Cubs, said Parsley, should be a "good test to see where we're at."

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