What will new season bring for girls basketball?

Lizzie Berkvam of Lakeville North handles the ball during a game against St. Michael-Albertville at the 2020 state Class 4A girls basketball tournament. North and Farmington represented the South Suburban Conference in the tournament, which was cut short before its completion because of the pandemic.

Class 4A finalist Farmington looks tough to beat

The season that didn’t end as scheduled will be followed by a season that won’t start on time.

But at least for local high school girls basketball, there are plans for a 2020-21 season, starting with the opening round of games Jan. 14. When it ends is still to be determined. An 18-game South Suburban Conference schedule runs through March 12, with section playoffs to follow. The Minnesota State High School League hasn’t yet committed to holding a state tournament but if that happens it likely would be in late March or early April.

Two SSC teams, Farmington and Lakeville North, reached the 2019 Class 4A tournament that was shut down by the COVID-19 outbreak. Farmington was to play in the championship game against Hopkins. Lakeville North, after losing in the quarterfinals, defeated Eden Prairie in the consolation semifinals before its tournament ended.

Farmington won the South Suburban last season and goes into this season as the favorite with a strong returning group. Lakeville North also has several returnees, as does Rosemount, which was upset by North in the Class 4A, Section 3 title game.

Here’s an early look at the eight teams in the Dakota County Tribune and Sun Thisweek coverage area:

Apple Valley

Coach: Bryan Doughty.

Last season: 12-16 overall; reached Class 4A, Section 3 semifinals.

First game: vs. Lakeville South, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: The Eagles were a guard-dominant team last season and that seems unlikely to change. Three of their top four scorers from last season were senior guards; seniors Chyna Young (9.2 points per game in 2019-20) and Jenna Nyblom will be among those looking to step in this season. Junior Isabella Jensen also saw a considerable amount of playing time last season.

Burnsville

Coach: Maurice Hodges

Last season: 17-10 overall; reached Class 4A, Section 3 semifinals.

First game: vs. Eastview, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: Was the Blaze’s first winning season in a decade an anomaly or a sign of what’s to come? Players such as Morgan Krumwiede, Hannah Lake, Savannah Islam, Shantell Harden and Mara McMahon hold the answer as returnees from last year’s roster. Krumwiede, a forward who has signed with Minnesota State Mankato, was the team’s leading rebounder last year and second in scoring with a 12.9 average. The Blaze preferred an up-tempo style last year, scoring 70 points or more in 14 games, and seem likely to try to play that way again this year.

Eagan

Coach: Jesse Madsen.

Last season: 8-19 overall; reached Class 4A, Section 3 quarterfinals.

First game: at Shakopee, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: A good first step for the Wildcats would be winning more close games; last season Eagan had six losses by three points or fewer. The top player figures to be junior Lily Fandre, who is 6-foot-1 and can play several positions, including point guard. She led the Wildcats in scoring with a 14.6 average last season. Junior forward Jocelyn Plonski averaged a double-double last season (10 points, 11.2 rebounds) but currently is out because of a knee injury. Only two seniors graduated from the 2019-20 roster.

Eastview

Coach: Molly Kasper.

Last season: 6-21 overall; reached Class 4A, Section 3 quarterfinals.

First game: at Burnsville, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: Senior guard and University of South Dakota recruit Cassidy Carson will look to lead Eastview back from a rare losing season. Carson led last season’s Lightning in scoring (13 points per game) and was second in rebounding. Guards Alexis Plitzkow and Kaitlyn Schaefer also saw a considerable amount of playing time last season, as did forward Faith Morris.

Farmington

Coach: Liz Carpentier.

Last season: 29-2 overall; South Suburban Conference and Class 4A, Section 1 champion; state Class 4A finalist.

First game: at Lakeville North, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: Not many teams can graduate the leading scoring in school history (Molly Mogensen, now at Creighton University) and still be loaded, but that’s the Tigers’ situation. Sophie Hart, a 6-foot-4 senior center headed for North Carolina State, can score, rebound, defend and pass. Senior guard Peyton Blandin will play at Southwest Minnesota State and senior guard Paige Kindseth will go to Presbyterian College. Junior guard Rose Wille came on at the end of last season, scoring in double figures in seven of her last nine games.

Lakeville North

Coach: Shelly Clemons.

Last season: 19-11 overall; won Class 4A, Section 1 championship.

First game: vs. Farmington, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: The North pipeline to Division I college programs continued with guard Lauren Jensen, now at the University of Iowa. Players who will try to get the Panthers back to the state tournament include guard Lizzie Berkvam, the leading scorer among last year’s returnees and a Minnesota State Moorhead recruit. Berkvam, guards Ashleigh Fossey and Megan Schwieters, and forward Ellen Glomstad are captains. Jensen and Sara Kuma combined to average more than 41 points a game last season, but with both now in college, this year’s Panthers are likely to need to rely on balanced scoring.

Lakeville South

Coach: Angie Iverson-Ohnstad.

Last season: 6-21 overall; reached Class 4A, Section 1 quarterfinals.

First game: at Apple Valley, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: The Cougars graduated two of their top three scorers from last season but had several promising young players who appear to be in line for expanded roles. Junior guard Ally Schultz led the team in scoring with a 12.6 average. Finley Ohnstad averaged 5.6 points as an eighth-grader. Seniors Zoe Ostrowski, Ava McNab and Adi Brown, along with junior Maria Harvey, scored in double digits in at least one varsity game last season.

Rosemount

Coach: Chris Orr.

Last season: 24-5 overall; reached Class 4A, Section 3 finals.

First game: vs. Prior Lake, 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14.

Outlook: The Irish spent most of last season ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A and were one of two teams to beat neighboring rival Farmington. Several key players from that group are back, including senior forward Helen Staley, who recently signed with Oakland University. Staley averaged 10.9 points last season, second on the team. Also back are senior guard Ivory Finley and junior forward Tayah Leenderts. Alexa Ratzlaff, a junior, already has three years of varsity experience at guard. The Irish need to identify new perimeter shooters; all but five of the 119 three-pointers they made last season were by players who have graduated.

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