Chaska Basketball - Heyer

Chaska’s Mallory Heyer was a first-team all-Metro selection by the Star Tribune in 2021. She is headed to the University of Minnesota next season.

The 2020-21 campaign was a dream season for Chaska. Eighteen wins, zero losses, a win over the nation's No. 1-ranked team, and a Class AAAA state championship.

The Hawks had it all. Stellar point guard play, strong defense on the perimeter and in the post, and athletes that could shoot from the paint, or behind the arc.

Returning its top two scorers in 1,000-point scorer Mallory Heyer (21 points per game) and Kennedy Sanders (16.2 ppg), starter Kendall Karrmann and rotational players Ashley Schuelke and Anna Lenzen, Chaska starts the season ranked No. 2, looking to defend its title.

Heyer is one of four in-state recruits for coach Lindsay Whalen and the Minnesota Gophers for the Class of 2022. Sanders, a junior, committed to the University of Colorado this fall.

"We have high expectations after winning the state championship and returning 11 varsity players. Team captains Mallory, Kendall,  and Kennedy will be leaned on for their leadership and experience. We will be looking for consistency in the back court to help fill the roles of our three senior athletic guards that graduated," Chaska coach Tara Seifert said.

How good the Hawks are will certainly be known after the first month of play. Chaska will face section rival Hopkins, No. 1 Hopkins in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic on Dec. 4, perennial top-10 teams Waconia, Park Center, Wayzata and Eden Prairie -- all before the calendar flips to 2022.

A rematch of the Section 2AAAA championship with Minnetonka is set for Jan. 29, 2022.

"The Chaska program is excited to play a strong schedule and will be tested early with playing Hopkins on Dec. 4. We always schedule a challenging non-conference schedule that will show what we need to improve on as well as prepare us for tough section play," Seifert said.

In addition to Heyer and Karrmann, Chaska has two collegiate commits in the post in seniors Lily Niebuhr (Indiana State) and Zoe Cutler (Wisconsin-Platteville) that look to give the Hawks a scoring boost.

"Our team is determined and driven to keep building from last year's success. We strive to improve each week, not overlook any opponent, and to be playing our best basketball when section play starts," Seifert said.

CHANHASSEN

With two wins over the first seven games, Chanhassen's growth during the 2021 season was on display from February on, winning six of the final 10 contests.

In year No. 2 with head coach Kayla Walsh, the Storm are a squad on the rise in the Metro West Conference and in Section 2AAAA.

"We have a lot of well-seasoned and hard-working players returning. These girls are some of the hardest workers I have seen and their leadership is second to none," Walsh, who showed her Chanhassen pride, walking the Homecoming parade this fall with her husband and dog, said.

Senior Callin Hake, already the program's all-time scorer, is coming off a 21.5 points per game campaign. The University of Nebraska commit topped 30 points twice, both team wins, last year.

Senior guard Madi Hicks (11.9 ppg), senior guard Mackenzie Sapp (6.7 ppg), senior post Macy Sweester (4.4 ppg) and sophomore guard Lauren Arnold (7.8 ppg) are returners that give the Storm depth in scoring.

"I think that our returners will help lead our team to success no matter where they are placed on or off the court. Our expectations are very high of our seniors and expect them to really flourish this season," Walsh said.

Chanhassen starts the season with three road games, including the season opener on Thursday, Nov. 2, at St. Francis. Shakopee, Holy Family Catholic, Wayzata, St. Michael-Albertville, and Lakeville South at Saturday's Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins High School are among the team's top non-conference match-ups.

Chanhassen will also face top-10 programs in Chaska, Waconia and Benilde-St. Margaret in Metro West Conference play.

"The competition we have lined up and how strong our conference opponents are. I am super excited about the Breakdown Classic as well as the STMA Tournament. Great opponents and a way to really show what we have been working on," Walsh said.

SOUTHWEST CHRISTIAN

When Tiffany Stubbs applied for the assistant athletic director position at Southwest Christian, there was no doubt who was getting the job.

Not only did the Stars get an outstanding leader in the athletic department, but they also got an outstanding basketball coach. Stubbs led Concordia Academy to the state tournament in 2020, winning 15 of 18 games in 2021.

Now Stubbs has the task of taking Southwest Christian to its first state tournament. The Stars finished second at sections last year, falling to one of the state's most talented teams in Providence Academy.

"We have our leading scorer, Chloe Brunsberg, returning this year and she has continued to expand her game and improve every year. We actually have no seniors in our program at all, so we are a bit young. We are hoping to see lots of growth in our team from the beginning to the end of the season," Stubbs said.

Brunsberg made 64 3-pointers, shooting 43 percent from behind the arc, in scoring 17.3 points per game as a sophomore.

Juniors Mehlayna Straub (5.0 PPG), Lillian Rediger (3.1 PPG), Kristin O'Brien (3.9 ppg), and sophomore Kylie Beckering (2.6 ppg) give Southwest Christian options on the scoresheet.

Southwest Christian is in a new section, 2AA, getting away from Providence Academy, Watertown-Mayer and Minneapolis North. Former Minnesota River Conference opponents make up one-half of the section along with Glencoe-Silver Lake.

"We are excited to match up with some of the top teams from last year. We will play Providence, St. Croix Lutheran, Minneapolis South, Watertown-Mayer, and Mayer Lutheran. We moved into a new conference that will give us great opportunities against high level opponents. We have a challenging schedule that will really push us to grow as a team," Stubbs said.

Southwest Christian opens at Visitation at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

HOLY FAMILY CATHOLIC

Much of the season playing with seven healthy bodies, Holy Family Catholic won 10 games, upsetting Watertown-Mayer in the section playoffs.

All seven of those players are back, senior Lucy Hertel is back from missing an entire basketball season, and the roster is up to 13 for the Fire.

"With no seniors last year, we are excited about the group we have coming back. Returners gained a great year of experience, and we have multiple leaders on our roster," second-year Fire head coach Brandon Antl said.

Junior Sophi Hall is one of the most talented shooters in the state, and maybe the best shot-blocker. She scored 17.4 points per game in 2021, finishing with 42 3-pointers, 9.1 rebounds per game, and 115 blocks. That was 6.8 swats per game.

"Sophi is a first-year captain, and she looks ready to take the next step in her game. She is looking extremely confident and will be a force on both ends of the floor for us again," Antl said.

Senior Nicole Bowlin, a fifth-year varsity player, is among the best passers around. She totaled 116 assists in 19 games last season, leading the Fire in total rebounds (8.8 per game) and points scored (19 per game).

"Nicole is a captain and leads with her passion. She is closing in on 1,000 points and we expect her play to be at the level of the top point guards in the state," the coach.

Guard Reagan Cizek (6.6 ppg) and Hertel are two other seniors Antl has high expectations for.

"Reagan brings a ton of experience and grit to our line-up, and we expect her to be a steady guard for our rotation. She brings great energy on the defensive end and has been a great leader in practice for our younger girls. Lucy is back as a captain after her injury last year and she will bring toughness, and all-around solid play for us. We think she can play multiple positions and her leadership has been fantastic thus far," the coach said.

Sophomores Sophie Zay (10.6 ppg), Berkley Neubauer (10.6 ppg) and Kate Buchholz (3.7 ppg) helped the Fire average more than 67 points per game.

Another sophomore, Jocelyn Land, scored in double digits in her Fire debut in a 66-31 win over Simley in the season opener on Nov. 26 in a tournament at St. Thomas Academy High School.

Hall (20 points on four 3-pointers) and Bowlin (13 points) were also leading scorers, while Hertel added eight points.

Holy Family Catholic lost in the second game of the weekend, a 67-58 defeat to Mountain Iron-Buhl.

"We are really excited about our schedule for this season and the opportunity to play a full slate of games. Our conference will be tough as always and we are looking forward to playing in a few tournaments where we will be matched up with teams we don’t always get to see," Antl said. "Senior night on Feb. 5 against Chanhassen should be a fun one for our girls."

Holy Family Catholic is back in action at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30, at home versus Norwood Young America.

MINNETONKA

With two senior floor generals, and two ever-improving sophomores returning, Minnetonka starts the season ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA; one of three teams in Section 2AAAA in the top-five.

The Skippers were winners of 15 of 20 games last season, four of those defeats coming against state champion Chaska and state semifinalist Hopkins.

Back from that team are leading scorers Ki'Ani Lockett and Desiree Ware, who had an average of 15 and 11 points a year ago. Lockett is signed with Creighton University, while Ware will play at Alabama-Birmingham.

Emma Dasovich and Tori McKinney each played in all 20 games last season.

"We have solid veteran talent on our team, and they are hungry to compete. I expect them to lead by example on and off the court, paving the way for our youngsters to develop in turn," Minnetonka coach Leah Dasovich said.

Minnetonka's line-up was bolstered by the addition of Tootie Lewis, who played at Cretin-Derham Hall last in 2019-20, freshman Aaliyah Crump and eighth grader Lanelle Wright.

Crump was offered by the University of Minnesota this summer. Wright was No. 36 on a pre-season national top 100 list for the Class of 2026.

"If we play to our potential, that would be success. Get better every day and in every practice, consistently showing improvement," Dasovich said on what a successful season looks like.

Minnetonka opened the season with two wins at Hamline University on Nov. 26 and 27, defeating White Bear Lake 54-25 and St. Louis Park 95-54.

Lockett and Crump each netted 16 points in the opener versus the Bears, while the Skippers were 22-of-28 from the free-throw line in the win over the Orioles. Lockett scored a game-high 26 points with four 3-pointers with Crump (14), Ware (12) and Wright (11) also in double digits.

Minnetonka plays twice in the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins' Lindbergh Center. The Skippers face 2021 Class AAAA runner-up Rosemount and Maple Grove on Dec. 3 and 4, both games starting at 5:30 p.m.

There isn't many freebies on the Skippers' schedule this season.

"I am most excited about the level of competition we play night in and night out. The Lake Conference is loaded, once again, and the section is so deep and so talented. We will have an opportunity to be tested over and over again this season," Dasovich said.

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