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With plenty of size, chemistry, Packer girls look to build on past success

Cassidy Thorson of West Fargo takes a shot at the basket during a Friday, Jan. 25, game against Davies High School. Thorson, who averaged 9.9 points per game last season, is the team’s highest returning scorer. File photo

With the girls basketball season starting next week, the West Fargo girls will look to build on the success they found last season, in which they went 21-4 on the season, finished second in the EDC tournament and were runners-up in state.

However, almost three-fifths of their 1,278 points scored came from players who have either graduated or are inactive this season, but head coach Barb Metcalf believes that the players she has -- with the impressions left by the classes before them -- will pick up the slack.

“I think we had a phenomenal year, but we don’t graduate our traditions” Metcalf said. “We want to continue on. It doesn’t matter which class of seniors graduate. Our kids are going to carry the baton into the next season.”

What does return to the team is a great deal of height, with four athletes -- three of them seniors -- that are at least 5 feet 10 inches tall.

“We are going to be a big team,” Metcalf said. “You are going to see two different dynamics: You will see a big team that plays a good 2-3 zone and match-up zone, but you will also see an assortment of players that can play some really good full-court man, which is something we have always thrived on. But when you have the size, it’s nice to use it.”

With speedy, high-scoring guards Christine Baltezore and Lexi Lennon gone and the prominence of the Packer frontcourt, one has to wonder if the typical up-tempo style of last year’s team could fall by the wayside, and the 2013-2014 Packers could become more of a post-up team, but Metcalf sees both play styles as viable options this year.

“If someone asked me how this season will be different (from last season), I would say that we have the ability to be more of a half-court team,” Metcalf said. “Last year, we were a bit smaller and more of a transition team, now we can do both, and that is a beautiful puzzle to have.”

The Packers were dealt a blow in September when senior forward Amanda Levin went down with a torn ACL and MCL. The three-sport athlete had 113 points and 35 steals for the team last year.

“I contend that -- no matter who we have -- we are very fortunate to have kids that can do some different things for us,” Metcalf said. “All of them will just have to up their games, and they will. Amanda is still going to be an important part of the team. Her leadership is more than just being an athlete, and she will be with us 100 percent.”

Apart from the team’s size and athleticism, Metcalf feels that chemistry is West Fargo’s greatest strength. According to the coach, the girls are very coordinated as a unit and do a great job of finding each other on the court.

“This puzzle of Packers really has some interchangeable parts,” Metcalf said. “That is going to be huge for us, especially come playoff time. I like the fact that these kids compliment each other. They make each other better, and sometimes that isn’t the case. There is something special with these girls. I see a little something more in them. How that pans out, we will just have to see.”

Preseason rankings have the Packers ranked second in the Eastern Dakota Conference -- behind Fargo Shanley -- and fourth in the state, but Metcalf and the Packers have set the bar a bit higher for themselves.

“We always have the same expectation: We want to be at the top of the EDC, and we want to be playing for the championship,” Metcalf said. “That is what we work for. These kids put the work in. We have been successful. We played in the last two state championship games, but we are ready to make the next step and finish the job. Everything has to be in place for that. It’s a war of attrition, and we’ll see who is left standing in the end. The margin of error keeps getting slimmer and slimmer.”

The Packers first game is on Thursday, Dec. 12, when they host top-ranked Fargo Shanley.