Lightning can’t ask for better start

Girls hoops team wins 2 games in Hamline tourney

Eastview’s Tyra Johnson (21) shoots over De La Salle’s Anna Podewils during a girls basketball tournament last week at Hamline University. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

If Eastview’s girls basketball fans were concerned that their Thanksgiving weekend would turn into a turkey, perhaps it’s understandable. The Lightning, with one returning starter, was going to open its season by playing the defending Class 2A and 3A state champions on consecutive days.

It turns out they need not have worried. Eastview won both games convincingly, beating Providence Academy 50-30 and De La Salle 82-59 at the Pat Paterson Memorial Thanksgiving Tip-Off Tournament at Hamline University.

Now the question is, what to make of those two games?

“We found out we have a lot of kids who are going to be able to come into a game and help out,” Lightning coach Melissa Guebert said. “The kids who scored six or eight points still made a big impact. And that’s good for our team. It keeps a little pressure on our starters because they know that just because they’re starters doesn’t mean they’ll stay on the court if they’re not playing well.”

Eastview held Providence Academy to 12 second-half points in its victory last Friday. Sophomore guard Madison Guebert led the Lightning with 19 points, with sophomore forward Hana Metoxen adding 10 and senior forward Tyra Johnson adding nine.

Madison Guebert had 29 points, Johnson 18 and Metoxen 16 against De La Salle. The Islanders made themselves easier to defend by having two players take almost all of their shots, but Melissa Guebert said she was pleased that the Lightning was able to hold a team that likes to run the floor to 59 points.

“The first half of our game against Providence Academy was a struggle,” Melissa Guebert said. “But I’d say that was true of just about every game I saw there. The first half of every game was probably not what the coaches wanted to see.

“We were a lot more composed in the second half. If we play tough, aggressive, man-to-man defense the way we did for most of those two games, we’ll be fine.”

Madison Guebert, the coach’s daughter and the lone returning starter from an Eastview team that went 25-7 and finished fourth in the state Class 4A tournament, averaged almost 19 points a game last season. She’s also the Lightning’s primary ballhandler, “but we have other girls who can play the point, so we don’t always have to have Madison there,” Melissa Guebert said. “Madison then could go in and rebound, and she’s a pretty good rebounder.”

Johnson, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, is the only other returnee among Eastview’s top seven scorers from last season. She averaged 6.4 points in 19 games. Johnson is a captain along with senior guard Mikaela Wilson and senior forward Hannah Ruszczyk.

Metoxen saw limited playing time on varsity last year but played on the same AAU team as Madison Guebert during the summer. Metoxen, a 5-11 forward, had made so much progress that Melissa Guebert felt comfortable with having her guard De La Salle senior Allina Starr, who will play Division I basketball at Auburn University next year.

Ruszczyk scored six points against De La Salle. Sophomore guard Melissa Barry and junior forward Kari Opatz added six and four points.

Bloomington Kennedy, which tied Eastview for the South Suburban Conference title last season, played in the same bracket at the Hamline tourney but did not face the Lightning. The Eagles defeated De La Salle but lost to Providence Academy.

Although Kennedy and Lakeville North appear to be Eastview’s biggest competition in the SSC, Melissa Guebert said it looked to her that most of the other teams in the league had improved. “I think any game you play in the conference, if you have a bit of an off night you could be in trouble,” she said.

Eastview played at Minnetonka on Thursday night and will be at home against Park of Cottage Grove on Dec. 7. The Park game is a rematch of the schools that played in the Section 3 title game in March.

“I’m hoping to see some composure from our kids in tough games,” the coach said. “I feel that we will, but you don’t really know until you’ve had a few games. I’m anxious to see what we can do.”