New Town sophomore Baeleigh Brady's scoring average has dipped a couple of points from last season, but that's a sign of her teammates' improvement rather than a deterioration of her play.
The 5-foot-7 guard still leads the Eagles at about 13.5 points per game, but four of her teammates average at least eight points per game. This balanced attack has led New Town to a 24-0 record, the No. 4 ranking in the state and a matchup against Shiloh Christian (19-6) at 1 p.m. today in the first round of the Class B state tournament at the Bismarck Civic Center.
"It's really important because it takes the pressure off me," Brady said of her teammates' emergence. "It gives us a better chance of winning knowing that they can score too. Any one of them can score."
New Town coach Orville Drosdal said sophomore guard Gabby Wilkinson averages about 12 points per game, freshman Mia Wilkinson scores 10 per game from the center position, junior Taylor McGrady chips in 9.5 and sophomore Rayessa Baker adds about eight.
"It really pays dividends, people can go box-and-one or box-and-chase on us and we can always have someone else step up to score," Drosdal said. "It's a nice mix."
Shiloh Christian coach Jim Petrik said he respects the Eagles' depth, but his defensive game plan will still focus on Brady.
"We know Baeleigh Brady, their sophomore guard, is a good shooter and kind of their floor general out there," Petrik said. "I think we're gonna try to key on her and try to frustrate her with the ball, try to make other players make plays."
The Skyhawks feature two all-region players - junior guard Paige Emmel (16.7 points per game) and junior forward Mikayla Forness (13.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game). Petrik said the team is riding high after knocking off No. 8 Grant County 46-35 in the Region 5 championship game.
"Obviously, beating a team like Grant County in a region championship atmosphere, our confidence is really high right now," Petrik said. "There's going to be some first-game jitters at state, but we hope to get them out of the way early."
Drosdal said the teams play similar styles.
"They're kind of like a mirror image of what we have," he said. "They've got good balance, you can't just stop one person. They like to get out and run a little, kind of what we like to do, so it should be an interesting matchup."
The Eagles are the only undefeated team remaining in the state, but Brady isn't putting too much stock in past accomplishments.
"It's good but our record and ratings don't mean anything now," Brady said. "Everyone starts the state tournament 0-0."
Drosdal echoed that sentiment.
"Once you get to this level, the state tournament, everyone is on a pretty level playing field. The Class B boys tournament indicated that going in undefeated doesn't really matter."