The Burnsville girls basketball team has experience, talent and depth back, so hopes are high.
The Blaze didn't have a senior on the roster last year, finishing 10-14 overall (5-13 in the South Suburban Conference). Coach Maurice Hodges has four seniors this winter in Zhane Thompson, Megan Diggan, Paige Servais and Breanna Shearer.
Thompson led the team in scoring at 12.6 points per game last season, including reaching 1,000-career points. Diggan and Servais averaged 10.6 and 8.1 points, respectively.
Junior Morgan Krumwiede was the Blaze's second leading scorer at 11.2 points per game.
Hodges said the team has good depth, including juniors Hannah Lake and Mara McMahon and ninth-grader Shantell Harden, who each got plenty of varsity minutes last year.
"There are also other players vying for playing time," Hodges said. "We would like to continue the upward swing of our program by being competitive in the conference and section. Last year was huge for us to earn a home playoff game and we learned so much from it.
"If we can repeat some of the same things we did last season and, capitalize on areas that we have identified as areas to work on and get better at as a program, this season should be very good for us," Hodges added. "The primary goal is a run at the state tournament."
To get to state, which would be the first appearance for the program since 1996, Burnsville will have to win three straight games versus a strong Section 3AAAA field, which became even tougher this year with the addition of Lakeville North, last year's Section 1AAAA champion.
Eastview has won the last eight Section 3AAAA crowns and the Lightning will again be tough, along with Apple Valley and Rosemount. Park, Hastings and Eagan are also in the field.
Burnsville has lost seven straight playoff games. It's last playoff win was 57-46 over Eagan in 2012.
The program has also had 10 straight losing seasons. Those are two streaks that team will be looking to end this year.
"We didn't have a senior last year, so the experience piece is huge for us," Hodges said. "Our speed should allow us to play [our] brand of basketball on both ends of the floor."
Burnsville will open the season Nov. 23 in the Tip Off Classic at Hopkins High School at 9 a.m., taking on Holy Angels, who finished third in the Class 3A state tournament last year.
The Blaze are home to Henry Sibley Nov. 26, at Bloomington Jefferson Dec. 3 and home to Park Dec. 7. All three non-league games start at 7 p.m.
The SSC opener is Dec. 10 at home versus Rosemount at 7 p.m.