Apple Valley returns several players from 19-win team

As much as Apple Valley would have liked to win its game at the Breakdown Tip Off Classic, the bigger priority is building a body of work that can be dissected on film.

“Nights like tonight are an opportunity to figure out what you have,” Eagles girls basketball coach Bryan Doughty said following his team’s season-opening 57-44 loss to Centennial last Friday at Hopkins High School. “It didn’t go the way we wanted, but we get to see it on film and relay it to the players.

“We put them on the free throw line too much. We were a little too hesitant shooting the ball. We were throwing it up at the rim when we had opportunities for layups. Those are things you can’t duplicate in practice. You can only say, here’s what happened in the game. Let’s watch it on the film.”

The coach also offered a prediction: “When you see us two months from now, we’re going to be completely different.”

The Eagles return several key parts of their rotation from a team that won 19 games last season and finished third in the South Suburban Conference. “The foundation is there,” Doughty said. “Now we just have to be patient with them and teach them, and good things are going to happen.”

Apple Valley has four players – guards Chyna Young, Madison Reed, Anna Mutch and Kalena Myers – who averaged 5.7 points or more last season. Several others, including guard Jenna Nyblom, Isabella Jensen, Kiree Murray and Amara Thomas, also saw some playing time on varsity.

“After our top five or six we have a bunch of young kids,” Doughty said. “The idea is not to overwhelm them but give them opportunities. (In the Centennial game) we gave an eighth-grader (Rileigh Lamberson) a few minutes. Her eyes were wide open. That’s an experience she’s going to be able to take with her.”

Eventually, the Eagles would like to be nine or 10 players deep to suit the faster style they want to play. Although they didn’t shoot well against Centennial, Doughty expects the team to have several offensive threats and balanced scoring.

“It’s a very unselfish group. Sometimes that’s really hard to get,” he said. “If we have five kids averaging 12 points a game, I can’t think of a better way to have a team. And this team has that potential.”

Mutch had 18 points, Young nine and Myers eight in the Centennial game.

A guard-dominant Apple Valley team lost last year’s top rebounder, Mykel Parham, who’s now playing at Creighton University. The returning players need to be relentless near the basket to overcome a lack of height.

“Centennial was significantly bigger than us, and I don’t think they outrebounded us,” Doughty said.

Apple Valley was 15th in the preseason state Class 4A rankings and was one of five South Suburban Conference schools in the top 15. “There are some really good teams in our conference,” Doughty said. “We’re going to concentrate on our effort and outworking our opponents. If we do that, good things will happen and we’ll beat teams we probably weren’t supposed to beat.”

That theory could be tested this week. The Eagles play at Elk River on Wednesday afternoon and this weekend will play in the Pat Paterson Invitational at Hamline University. Apple Valley takes on seventh-ranked Stillwater at 4:45 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, the Eagles play defending state champion and No. 1-ranked Hopkins at 6:45 p.m.

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