Three tips: what Four Winds/Minnewaukan GBB must do to succeed this season

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FORT TOTTEN/MINNEWAUKAN – The taste of victory was so close, yet so far for the Four Winds/Minnewaukan Indians last season. After putting together a first-place finish in their district, the girls team fell short after being eliminated by the Langdon/Edmore/Munich Cardinals, 48-42, in the Region 4 Championship. 

The Four Winds/Minnewaukan GBB team poses for a photo after the District Championship.

A new year, however, brings a plethora of opportunities for a team not only eager to climb over the hurdle but do it with a team that did not lose anyone to graduation last season. So, what must the team do this time around to try and capture their first state tournament berth in program history? Here are three tips for the team as they begin their 2021-22 campaign. 

1. Stay hungry 

The fact that Four Winds/Minnewaukan brings back six seniors, four juniors, a sophomore and a freshman to their ranks is impressive in itself. So remarkable, in fact, that it almost isn’t quantifiable. 

However, what is quantifiable is this – dating back to the 2018-19 season, the Indians have been eliminated in each of the last three Region 4 Championships to Langdon/Edmore/Munich. All three defeats came by varying margins (59-46 in 2018-19, 69-41 in 2019-20 and 48-42 in 2020-21). 

To the Indians, the goal is as clear as day – if the team can jump over the Cardinal hump, they may have a clear path toward a state tournament run. 

Moving into a brand-new season, the message is simple: remain hungry to make this become a possibility. 

“I think we are hungry,” Four Winds/Minnewaukan girls head coach Sean Gourd said. “The girls put a lot of time into the gym over the spring and summer, and they know we are right there, and I think that with a team full of seniors, we have that chip on our shoulder we want to get over. They are itching to play and are excited.” 

2. Combine talent with comfort

Let’s cut to the chase. The Indians have talent, especially on the scoring side of the basket. Mahpiya Jackson, Myona Dauphinais and Ezura Rainbow lead the way as the trio averaged 14+ points per game last season (16.0, 15.9 and 14.9, respectively). Impressive, right? Yes, but try this one on for size – for some of these players, they were putting up this production while playing out of position. 

Now, hold the phone. How could this be the case? Simple – it was merely about fulfilling a need. After all, Jackson was needed in a post-oriented role, while Dauphinais, a well-noted shooting guard, had to take the reins in captaining the offense from the point guard position. 

When speaking about Dauphinais, Gourd believes the senior will only improve her offensive skills now that she has reps at the position. 

“That helped her become more of a well-rounded player, being able to create for herself and others,” Gourd said. 

The circumstances surrounding Jackson’s position change are unique as it pertains to another player. With the addition of 5’10” junior Alionna Lawrence, Jackson can now be flexed more toward the perimeter as a way to let her three-point shooting prowess show out. 

“I think moving her [Jackson] to the perimeter, she is such a very good shooter,” Gourd said. “She has a nice shot and can shoot a few feet away from the three-point line. That is going to help us. Even with our pressing and pressure defense, I am able to move her up. She is long and lengthy, around 5’10”. She works hard every time she is out there, also.” 

Once again, the talent is there. Now, it is about combining that talent with comfort. Once the team finds that comfort regarding where each player plays, the possibilities are endless. 

3. More pressure = more success 

A team has two best friends: health and depth. In terms of the latter, the Indians will look to run eight to nine players deep and keep each player fresh enough for the stretch run, both in terms of each game and the season as a whole. However, more depth also gives the Indians the option of showing more aggression, especially on the defensive side. 

To Gourd, a more pressure-oriented defense will not only allow the offense to shine but give his team yet another edge over any opponent they tackle. 

“I am hoping we settle in a little bit more and push the ball in,” Gourd said. “A little more pressure defense, and I think we will. I am hoping to, anyway. That is always something I want to do in pushing the ball a little bit more and getting up and down a little more in the pressure defense.”