Braham girls basketball still a work in progress

Alexis Hasser gets a shot off despite tight defense by an Aitkin player during Braham’s game on Friday, Jan. 19.

Now with 13 games into the history books for the 2017-18 season, the Braham Bombers girls’ basketball team, under second-year head coach Amber Hoffman, has a 7-6 overall record and a 4-2 mark in the Great River Conference. As such records might indicate, it’s been an up and down season for the team thus far, but it did manage to put a four-game win streak together before its loss to AAA Sauk Rapids-Rice on Saturday, Jan. 13. 

Also on the positive side, losing streaks have been avoided thanks to an occasional level of play that is typically demonstrated by teams that are much more – shall I say, “win-loss” successful.

A case in point was the St. Cloud Cathedral holiday tournament. In the first of two games, the then 3-4 Bombers took on the 6-2 Litchfield Dragons. I’m sure few fans felt the team would win in a rout, but there were the Bombers, up 32-7 with six minutes left in the first half. From there, however, the suddenly-cold Bombers wilted under the Dragons’ full court press and never recovered. They were outscored 57-11 and lost by 21 points.

The next day the team played Melrose, led by 11 at halftime, and still had a 10-point edge with under nine minutes to play. The Dutchmen tied the game near the end, but Braham got the four-point win by controlling the final minutes. 

Then on Jan. 5 against Moose Lake-Willow River (then 1-8), the Bombers lost a 17-point second-half lead, but avoided overtime and won by two points when a wide-open Rebels’ layup failed to drop with just seconds to play.

A well-played win over Ogilvie and a far-from-impressive win over East Central were less dramatic, but inconsistency has been the overriding constant. At times, the team seems capable of playing against even the best squads in Class A, but at other times, it can’t deliver the knockout punch it takes to put an opponent away.

Offensively, senior Emily Lindquist leads the team with a scoring average of 10.6 points per game, but several other Bombers have been leading scorers in individual games. Junior Sierra Giffrow is next at 7.8, while senior Amelia Fiedler (7.5) and junior McKenna Grams (7.2) are right behind.

The team averages only 47.6 ppg, partially due to what Hoffman calls “breaking old habits of forcing shots.” Instead of “relying on the outside shooting talents of Lindquist and Giffrow,” she has been encouraging her team “to work the offense and find new options for scoring, thus creating more threats for our opponents.” Those other options are junior Maddie Nelson (4.3) and freshman Hannah Cornelius (4.2).

Defensively, the Bombers have improved upon some early-season lapses and, instead of allowing avenues to the hoop or committing the blocking foul, are getting into good defensive position more frequently. It shows, as opponents are scoring on average 47.9 ppg. Only six teams have scored 55 or more points against Braham, but five of these games have been losses. It illustrates how important it is for this team, offensively-challenged as it is, to play well defensively for all 36 minutes.

As of Jan. 14, Rush City sits atop the GRC at 7-0 (12-0 overall) and Pine City is second at 5-1 (10-3). The Bombers are in third place, followed by Isle (3-3), East Central (3-4), Onamia (2-4), Ogilvie (1-5) and Hinckley/Fiinlayson (0-6).

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