Youthful Lions gain on-the-job training


BAYTOWN TOWNSHIP — With a roster that has one senior and one junior, and is dominated by freshmen and sophomores, the St. Croix Preparatory Academy girls’ basketball team would appear to face a tough second varsity season.

But appearances can be deceiving. Several of those freshman played major roles on last year’s team and coach Kurt Schollmeier believes that experience bodes well for his team this season.

“As a young team, we learned a lot,” he said about last season’s 13-13 squad. “As a young team, we matured a lot. Physically, in some games, we were out-matched. Some of them got thrown in the fire a little before they were ready.”

Schollmeier’s team starts with the core of last year’s team that includes senior center Abby Koski, junior Claudia Schulte and sophomores Marissa Leick and 6-2 post player sophomore Grace Kaetterhenry. Joining that trio are freshmen Lita Schollmeier at point guard, Lydia Schifsky, Mallory Boychuk, Rose Keatterhenry and Ariel Zuniga.

It was a team that followed its .500 season with an upset of Minneapolis North in their first-round section game at Minneapolis North.

“That was a big deal for us. We went on the road and won that first section game,” Schollmeier said. “That probably exceeded our expectations.”

Especially during a inaugural varsity season that at one point saw a roster hit hard by injuries and illnesses.

“We went a whole month without having our regular rotation,” he said. “We didn’t use that as an excuse.”

Last season’s finish has Schollmeier and his team setting bigger goals this year in their second season in the Minnesota Charter Schools Conference, which also includes FAIR, Prairie Seeds, Minnesota Transitions and Spectrum.

“Our goal will be to contend for a conference title. Prairie Seeds and Minnesota Transitions are the favorites. Our goal is to contend with them this year,” Schollmeier said.

To do that, Schollmeier’s squad will depend on the scoring abilities of all-conference players Koski and Grace Kaetterhenry and all-conference honorable mention guard Lita Schollmeier.

“We were blessed to have height on our team,” he said. “The Kaetterhenry sisters are both above six feet.”

But defense will be the foundation of any success the Lions enjoy this season, Schollmeier said.

“We’ll push the ball and take advantage of easy baskets, but our first week of practice is about defense. We’ll hang our hat on defense,” he said.

Not only will Schollmeier’s young team benefit from experience it gained last season, but SCPA’s teams in lower grades are establishing a pipeline of players that will help future teams.

“In our upper classes, we didn’t have basketball athletes. These younger classes have some talented youngsters,” he said. “Our younger grades had a strong interest. The future for us is growing organically.”

And Schollmeier sees one advantage in having a young team.

“For us, it’s a building process. But on the flip side, these ninth-graders will have played five years of varsity ball by the time they’re seniors,” he said.