Lauren Pawlyshyn

Junior Lauren Pawlyshyn was fourth in scoring for Prior Lake last season at 7.5 points per game.

The Prior Lake girls basketball team looks to be in a rebuild this winter under second-year coach Demondi Johnson.

The Lakers lost eight seniors from last year’s team that finished 12-6 overall in the shortened COVID-19 campaign, including taking third in the South Suburban Conference with a 12-5 mark.

Johnson’s team will be young with five sophomores and four ninth-graders expected to get minutes. Junior Lauren Pawlyshn and sophomores Anna Van Helden and CeCe McNair got varsity time last year.

Pawlyshn was fourth on the team in scoring at 7.5 points per game, while Van Helden averaged 4.8 points. Senior Sarah Krouse would have been another returning player, but she is out for the season with a knee injury.

“We have a tons of newcomers who have never played varsity, but all have a chance to contribute,” Johnson said. “It’s a very talented and young group. It will be very competitive for the years to come.”

Prior Lake lost in the first round of the Section 2AAAA playoffs last year for the second year in a row. The Lakers won the section crown in 2018, earning their first state berth since becoming a Class 4A program at the start of 2003-04 season.

Section 2AAAA looks to be loaded again this winter, starting with Chaska, the defending Class 4A state champions. The Hawks lost just four seniors from last year’s squad, so they are again the team to beat.

Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Shakopee will also be strong section squads, while Edina, Chanhassen and Waconia are also in the field.

Meanwhile, the SSC favorite looks to be Rosemount, last year’s state runner-up. Eagan, Lakeville North and Shakopee are also expected to be contenders.

“The hope for this year is to have fun on the journey and master our three C’s, comfort, confidence and courage,” he said. “When you have a team as young and inexperienced as ours, the hope is that they are enjoying the work, building their confidence mentally, their courage to make mistakes and grow each practice and game.”

“Compared to last year having eight seniors who knew what the level of play was about, this team just doesn’t know what to expect and neither do we as a staff, except the fact that there will be learning curves, but we welcome those,” Johnson added. “With the schedule we have, we will most likely be the youngest team in most of the games we play.

“Many of the teams will be evenly matched in talent if not more, so we will need to be a tough and hungry team that competes, which is what we call our non-negotiable.”

The Lakers open the season Dec. 2 at Robbinsdale Cooper. Prior Lake’s first SSC game is Dec. 14 at home versus Rosemount.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.