Bulldogs will rely on senior leadership and length to challenge for conference title

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Members of the 2019-2020 MFL MarMac varsity girls basketball team are (front, left to right) Miranda Lang, Mackenzy Ruff, Lakota Morrissey; (middle) manager Abby Schellhorn, Riley Moreland, Kayden Gillitzer, Carlie Jones, Emily Knickerbocker, manager Aleyna Rodriguez; (back) assistant coaches Jeremy Schellhorn and Stephanie Michel, manager Saysha Schoulte, Ashley Weaver, Rachel Davis, Jordan Schubert, Bailey Winter, RoseMary McGeough, Keri Picha, Dika Putri, head coach Jason Winter and assistant coaches Jess Schubert and Brian Bugenhagen. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

MFL MarMac head coach Jason Winter is feeling both optimistic and excited heading into the 2019-2020 girls basketball season.

“I think this is a chance to have as good a year, if not better, than last year,” he said.

That’s saying a lot, considering the Bulldogs went 20-2 a season ago, winning the Upper Iowa Conference championship. The season ended abruptly, though, with an unexpected loss to conference foe South Winneshiek in the opening playoff game.

“The season did not end the way we wanted it to last year. It was very disappointing, especially with the way we handled South Winn earlier in the season, twice,” Winter admitted. “I take a look at that from a coaching standpoint as ‘What do I need to do different to prepare the girls? Or were we just so tired and run down?’ I’ve kind of gone back and forth with that.” 

As a result, he added, the team is going to approach a few things differently this year. That includes working better in the half court.

“We could run with anybody, but in the half court running an offense, we struggled at times,” he said.

They’ll also try to limit their “hacking.”

“That’s something we’ve got to work on in general, is quit reaching and move our feet,” Winter said. “If we don’t, that’s something that could hurt us.”

The Bulldogs will rely on a strong group of senior leaders, including Bailey Winter, RoseMary McGeough, Jordan Schubert and Rachel Davis, to make those improvements. Some younger players, such as sophomores Riley Moreland and Miranda Lang, will also play a big role, the coach noted.

“I think we’re going to have a top seven or eight that is probably the best around. They could start for us and not miss a beat,” Winter said.

The team had more depth last season, with around 10 or 11 regular players, he conceded, but the “top end talent is better” this time around.

Part of the team’s talent comes in its length and athleticism. Winter said MFL MarMac doesn’t necessarily have a 6’2” or 6’3” girl, but rather several girls between the 5’8” and 6’ mark. 

“They’re all long limbed, so we can play bigger,” he explained. 

That makes his players multi-dimensional, meaning they can score both inside and outside.

“I like to call it position-less basketball. I think our team is definitely that,” said Winter. “We don’t pigeonhole girls into certain spots. They can play multiple positions, and I think that benefits us down the road.”

“We try to look for a lot of mismatches when we play,” he added, “so if we can get a mismatch out on the court, we’re going to try to exploit that, and we’ve got a lot of girls who can do that. I’m excited about that.”

Winter said the Bulldogs’ schedule is tougher this season. 

“I think we’ll have a good, solid six or eight games that could probably go either way. They’ll be good tests for us,” he shared. 

The team will be tested right away, in a Nov. 26 game at North Fayette Valley, followed by a Rivalry Saturday match-up at Coe College on Nov. 30 against Waukon, a state participant last year. 

The Upper Iowa Conference, as a whole, will be better, and Winter expects MFL MarMac to again challenge for the top spot—and beyond.

“I think we can be one of the top teams in the state of Iowa this year,” he remarked. “And it’s not that we’re fighting to get there. We’re there.”

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