Three tips: what Devils Lake GBB must do to succeed this season

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Rebuilding does not necessarily translate to losing. From the perspective of the Devils Lake Firebirds Girls Basketball team, it instead refers to finding other ways to win. 

With the loss of seven seniors (including four starters), the Firebirds will look for new stars to reinforce a starting lineup in need of eager players ready to take the next step. 

As Justin Klein looks to find that new team x-factor in his 10th year as Firebird head coach, here are three tips the team must lean on as they begin their 2021-22 season. 

The Devils Lake Firebirds Girls Basketball teams comes together for a post-practice huddle.

1. Play by the matchup(s) 

There is no denying it – the Firebirds lost a ton of talent over the offseason. The All-Conference EDC duo in Jailyn Martinson and Ramsey Brown, among others, are now out of the fold and onto their next venture. 

No departure goes without a direct effect. This certainly pertains to the new rendition of the Firebirds lineup. Without the veterans to take the brunt of the force, younger athletes and the few remaining experienced players will need to work together in a way that breeds flexibility. 

“You might see two or three freshmen in at a time,” Devils Lake head coach Justin Klein said. “You might see four freshmen and a sophomore in. You might see two seniors, or you might see four seniors. One junior and four seniors. I am one to play a lot of kids because of the way we play…there are a lot of question marks. I am not going to lie.” 

While the offensive side of the ball will have marked changes (more on that below), the defense will run a similar full-court style with zone schemes sprinkled in. Even still, the defensive side of the ball will succeed based on how the younger players mix and match effectively. 

“What I worry about a little [is] our long-ball defense and our drill penetration because of our youth,” Klein said. “We are going to put some freshmen out there and some sophomores that are going to be young, and trying to guard seniors in this conference is not easy.” 

2. Push for perimeter prowess

In terms of offense, scoring in transition will always be what the Firebirds emphasize. However, what the Firebirds must prioritize is more establishment beyond the arc. With a newer lineup, the likes of senior Rachel Dahlen and sophomore Jadyn Frelich (who shot 30% from downtown last season) will need to not only establish their usual volume but lengthen the defense out to the point that it includes the three-point line. 

“Offensively, we are going to have to focus more and do a better job executing so that we get open shots,” Klein said. “I would like to say I want to have higher percentage shots, and especially utilize Dahlen and Nelson because they are a force inside and scorers inside, so that is where we are going to have to look. Inside. Compared to last year, where we could go in and out with Martinson and Brown and things like that. We had some other posts. That is our look on offense, which is going to be different than last year.”

3. Tire teams out 

Klein understands the importance of conditioning, as does his team. Although they might be young and inexperienced, the Firebirds will still need to condition drain the opposition out. This has been how the Firebirds net positive results, and it will not change now. 

“It is going to be very important, and it has been important for us in this program for a long time,” Klein said. “I think the kids know coming in that that is how we win games and how we beat teams [is] by wearing them down. A lot of times, it was a close game until the half, and then in the second half, we just wore them down and kept pushing, pushing and pushing. But we were also deep and had a bench. We are going to have to find that a little bit, too. We are going to have to find some kids to step up and get some kids some minutes to see what that varsity level is like. I am hoping those older kids with varsity experience can kind of help those younger kids.”

Durability is always critical, especially for a Firebird team that will have to rely on every player to step up and find their role. As Devils Lake begins to tackle each game, look for the conditioning to improve and involve both the starting lineup and bench. After all, it revolves back to those pesky matchups.