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Season preview: Girls basketball ready to lock and 'reload'

West Fargo's Alyssa Hummel (42) and Katelyn Holland react after defeating Fargo North in overtime to qualify for the North Dakota state tournament in March. David Samson/The Pioneer

Last season, coach Barb Metcalf led West Fargo to an 8-8 Eastern Dakota Conference record and the team's first North Dakota State Class A tournament berth in three years.

Not bad for her first year at the helm.

The Packers were knocked out in the second round, however, falling to Devils Lake by six points.

Metcalf said the Packers' goal all along was getting to the state tournament.

"We wanted to fuel that energy back into the program," she said. "It was a huge deal for us (to reach the state tournament)."

Now, as another season is ready to begin, West Fargo is looking to build on that success. But even after losing five seniors, don't think of it as a time to "rebuild."

"I like the idea of 'reloading,' not 'rebuilding,' " Metcalf said. "Every team goes through graduations and things like injuries.

"I've never been one to make excuses."

This season, West Fargo starts off minus five seniors, all of which were in the top six in scoring on the team. The Packers will keep their No. 1 points leader, however, as Katelyn Holland will be back for her junior year. Last season, the 5-foot-9 guard racked up 307 points and shot 34.1 percent in field goals and 72.3 percent in free throws. She led the team in total rebounds (103) and steals (70) and was third in assists (59).

West Fargo also has potent talent in junior Carissa Becher and senior Jenna Green, and there are many players whose potential may have been untapped because of limited playing time.

Having a core of hard-working, talented players doesn't usually happen by luck. If a team is to be successful year-in and year-out, it's important for coaches and staff to have long-term vision, something Metcalf is well aware of.

"Our goal is to build a program that lasts, even through graduations," she said. "As a coach, you always have to look to the future."

Competitive edge

The Packers have done a few things during the offseason to prepare. For starters, they've had a recent chance to look at the North Dakota State University women's basketball team during practice.

"They saw the business-like approach of the college women's team," Metcalf said, of her team. "They saw the competition on the court between players."

The Packers emulated that drive and started their own competitiveness during practice, something that Metcalf likes to see.

"They are very competitive together. You have to have that fighting spirit, and this team definitely has that spirit," she said.

Metcalf said handling the ball will be key this season, and the Packers have practiced to sharpen their control. But the girls also have taken a stronger emphasis of working hard off the court, too, especially in the weight room where they have a "no-nonsense approach," Metcalf said.

"For our gals, there is one thing we're working for: being strong on the court."

To be competitive, "you better be strong with the ball," she said.

And this year, especially, Metcalf said the girls are ready to go.

"When they walk into the door at the gym, they have an upbeat look," she said.

Tough conference

Metcalf pointed to three East Region teams, in particular, that may give West Fargo a challenge: Fargo South, Fargo Shanley and Devils Lake.

All teams will have "a slim margin of error," she said. "If you want to be in the top three, you better keep those turnovers down."

West Fargo kicks off its season Friday, Dec. 11, at 6 p.m. against visiting Bismarck St. Mary's. Getting a win could help build momentum for the remainder of the season, but Metcalf isn't necessarily worried about that.

"It doesn't matter how you start out, its how you finish," she said. "Anything can happen."