Glimmers of light for Blaze hoops teams

Boys, girls break losing streaks

In South Suburban Conference basketball, a team with a young roster can be in for a lot of long nights.

Both Burnsville High School varsity teams had rough going early in the 2012-13 season before seeing glimmers of hope during the holiday break. Burnsville’s girls, who have just two seniors on their roster, lost their first six games before winning three of the next four. The boys team, which has just one senior, lost its first seven before winning consecutive games for the first time since the 2010-11 season.

The Blaze girls, 3-8 overall, defeated St. Anthony and Spring Lake Park in a tournament in Roseville, then beat Bloomington Jefferson 58-43 on Jan. 4 when they returned to SSC play.

Burnsville had a 13-point halftime lead against Jefferson then kept the game out of the Jaguars’ reach in the second half. Coach Steve Ray viewed that as a positive sign.

“We had some big losses early in the season, but even in those games there were times when we did well,” Ray said. “Now it’s a matter of doing those things for the whole game. The kids are buying into what we’re doing and fighting hard.”

Burnsville is playing two ninth-graders regularly, and there’s only one senior among its top seven scorers. The younger players’ learning curve might have had an impact on the record, as did the schedule.

“I challenge anyone to say we didn’t have a tough schedule,” Ray said. During December, Burnsville played three ranked teams in Class 4A – Edina, Eastview and Bloomington Kennedy – as well as Maranatha Christian Academy, the top-ranked team in Class 1A.

“When the other teams are playing seniors and we’re playing freshmen and sophomores, it’s tough,” Ray said. “We’ve had some injuries and we’re playing some young kids, but the last couple of weeks we’ve played better defense and have been able to score some more points.”

Sophomore guard Katrina Mogren had 11 points in Burnsville’s victory over Jefferson. Junior guards Maddie Kempf and Sam Connolly scored 11 points each, and ninth-grader Hannah Mitby had 10.

That balance is typical of what the Blaze has had all year. Four players – Georgi Donchetz, Connolly, Mogren and Kempf –average 7.3 to 8.8 points a game.

During its recent run of success, the Blaze was able to force turnovers and score in transition. That will be tougher to do against the skilled teams in the South Suburban, meaning Burnsville must execute its half-court offense.

“We’ll have to take care of the ball, no doubt,” Ray said.

Lakeville North, known for tenacious defense, figured to test the Blaze’s ability to break pressure and execute in the half-court in a South Suburban Conference game Tuesday night. And it was tough for Burnsville, which lost 66-41. Burnsville’s next home game is 7 p.m. Friday against Apple Valley.

Burnsville boys

Burnsville’s 82-68 victory over Hastings on Dec. 28 ended a 13-game losing streak over parts of two seasons. When the Blaze beat Bloomington Jefferson 45-43 on Jan. 3, it gave the team consecutive victories for the first time since March 2011.

That gave the Blaze hope for more victories in the future, although continuing the streak this week was expected to be a difficult assignment. Burnsville lost to Lakeville North 77-52 on Tuesday and faced Apple Valley on Thursday. Lakeville North was 10th and Apple Valley second in last week’s state Class 4A rankings.

Joe Morris, a sophomore forward, scored 12 points in the Blaze’s victory over Jefferson. Guard Eli Rogers, the team’s only senior, had 11 points, and junior guard Zach Smith scored 10.

Smith had 20 points, junior forward Ben Nienow 18 and Morris 15 against Hastings. That was Burnsville’s first victory since beating Jefferson on Feb. 14, 2012.

Burnsville takes on Rosemount at home at 7 p.m. Jan. 15.