Packer girls basketball undefeated, but not perfect yet
The Packer girls’ basketball team is having a season to remember.
They have earned their most consecutive wins to start a season in almost 40 years.
“It’s been a pretty sweet start,” Metcalf said. “When you build a tradition and the kids buy into it, it’s pretty special to see. This group is very coachable.”
The team is striving toward a perfect season, but according to their coach, “perfect” is not the best word to describe them.
“I think we are a pretty good team,” Metcalf said. “People make a lot about having a “perfect” season so far, but we don’t look at it like that. It’s nice, and the kids have earned it because of how hard they have practiced, but have we had a perfect game? The answer is no.”
While she doesn’t believe they have had a perfect season, Metcalf believes it is not out of the question.
“We haven’t peaked yet. We are still building toward a perfect season. We have a lot left. It is not a perfect season until you see how everything lays out.”
If they do build to that, they will do so using the team’s ability to work together, which they have done quite well, if you were to ask their coach.
“We have had some pretty good team chemistry in the past, but this team is something special. You can have good team chemistry, but sometimes, the pieces don’t necessarily fit. I feel this puzzle is fitting pretty well. We don’t have to rely on one person, and one person doesn’t have to feel that pressure. That is a pretty neat quality to have as a team.”
That team chemistry flows through their active seniors — guard Cassidy Thorson and forwards Shelby Gustafson and Kaitlin Langerud — who have been a key reason for their success on court.
Thorson — the team’s top scorer — is averaging 15.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. She ranks in the EDC’s top 10 in scoring, assists, free-throw percentage and 3-point percentage.
Gustafson is currently fourth in the conference in rebounds per game.
Langerud leads the team with a free-throw percentage of 82 percent.
“The senior leadership this year has been superb,” Metcalf said. “These kids take the others with them. They are the type of leaders that take kids with them, and they do it in a matter that is very upbeat. It is a nice, quiet leadership from them. I have been ecstatic with our captains. They have really bought into our philosophy, and that reinforces everything we do.”
However, the team’s underclassmen, notably Cassidy Nelson, Allison Enno, Kennedi Sand and Akealy Moton (before suffering a season-ending injury) have also greatly contributed to the success of the team. Metcalf expects these four to follow in Thorson, Gustafson and Langerud’s footsteps next season, as her program “doesn’t graduate tradition.”
The Pack has had seven different players lead the team in scoring in a game this season, and six players with over 100 points on the season.
“They are so balanced,” Metcalf said. “Any night, we can have a different kid — or four different kids — in double digits. We have done that quite a few times, and that is a huge stat for a team.”
The Packers’ defense has been solid for them as well, as they have held opponents to 47.3 points per game, which is the third-best average in the EDC. They have also accumulated 125 steals and 350 defensive rebounds.
“I say it every year: The best half-court man-to-man defense is going to win the state championship, especially in girls basketball,” Metcalf said. “You can run any kind of zone or ‘amoeba defense’ you want, but when they have shooters, watch out. We saw that last year. I am happy with where our man-to-man defense is as a whole. I think we are a little farther ahead than last year.”
Even if they lose a game the Packers believe they will be able to bounce back, thanks to their business-like composure that keeps them from getting too excited, but also keeps them from panicking.
“No matter the situation, they just keep plugging away,” Metcalf said. “We don’t have highs and lows. It is a long season, and I have never seen a group that is so composed under difficult situations. We know they are high school students, but they are very mature young ladies. They think about others, and they are fun to be around.”
The Packers will host Fargo South on Friday for the final home game of the regular season. They beat the Bruins 73-51 on Jan. 10.