Three tips: what Nelson County GBB must do to succeed this season

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

LAKOTA – Although the entire sports landscape was thrown a sharp curveball last year, the Nelson County Chargers Girls Basketball team might have received one with even more spin. After all, the team was in its first year as a co-op between Lakota and Dakota Prairie. A COVID-19 pandemic on top of the transition only created another hurdle the team had to jump over. 

Even still, the Chargers paved their way through adversity and eventually finished the season strong. The Chargers ended their 2020-21 season with a respectable 14-10 record and won six of their last seven regular-season games before taking part in District 7 and Region 4 tournament action. 

The Nelson County Chargers pose for a photo after a practice.

The Chargers are now looking to build off of their strong finish from a season ago. Should the team wish to do so, here are three tips they must take to heart as they begin their 2021-22 campaign. 

1. Stick to the process 

The Chargers struggled to find their footing through the early portion of the 2020-21 season. Through the team’s first 11 games, the Chargers were a mediocre 5-6 and averaged a measly 49 points per game (PPG). While their defense did not fold (their defense allowed 47 PPG during the stretch), the Chargers could not kindle enough firepower on the offensive end to make it consistently count. 

However, a change in defensive style (more on this below) immediately led to the offense reaping the benefits. Over their final dozen+ games, the Chargers averaged 50+ PPG (53). 

While the likes of Marit Ellingson, Paytan Lippert or Norah Johnson might not light up the stat sheet (all three averaged less than 12 PPG last season), they bring balance. More importantly, they understand what works and what does not. Once you add humbleness into the mix, you have a team that understands grit in more ways than one. 

“We have really good balance,” Nelson County head coach Gus Kueber said. “Once in awhile you might have a girl go off for 20-25 points here and there, but the thing I really love about these girls too is, let’s say Nora [Johnson] only puts up four points in the day or during that game, and we end up winning, that is all that matters. You do not ever hear any of the girls complaining about not getting enough shots today. None of that matters. What it comes down to, it is all about team success here, and individual success really doesn’t mean a whole lot to us.”

2. Freedom of the press 

The Chargers might not be a juggernaut when it comes to scoring buckets, but they do bring something else that might be lethal in and of itself: aggression. 

The Chargers will look to bring a steadier consistent dose of defensive pressure through a constant serving of full-court presses throughout the upcoming season. 

“I think it just helps to get the girls to understand that you are not going to sit there and wait for other teams to run their offense and do exactly what they want to do out there,” Kueber said. “Our job is to make other teams as uncomfortable as possible. I really felt like we did a good job of that, especially toward the end of the season. That aggression is great to have on defense. Offensively, I would love for that to carry over.” 

A significant strength should not be ignored. Instead, it should be embraced. Should the Chargers wish to keep the likes of Langdon/Edmore Munich and Four Winds/Minnewaukan at bay, they will need to stay fluid in creating and maintaining offensive and defensive pressure. 

3. Stay conditioned 

Running drills might make many a player groan in annoyance. However, the Chargers would make Coach Carter proud. After all, they have emphasized stamina as an area of improvement. 

“We spend a good deal of time, and I know probably a lot of coaches do, but we spend a good deal of time on conditioning, especially those first few weeks,” Kueber said. “Not only that but just throughout the season as well and just keeping everybody in the best shape as possible. If we are asking these girls to pressure the ball the entire way up and down the court, more often than not, what is going to happen is your legs are going to get tired…We run the girls enough and condition them enough...by the end of the game, second half or fourth quarter, we are going to be a little bit stronger than the other teams will be.” 

More durability creates more opportunities. Expect the Chargers to continue with this philosophy.