Lakers girls’ basketball off to hot ’21 start

A depleted, yet still quite determined, Des Lacs-Burlington girls basketball team exited the court at the Minot Auditorium Feb. 22 surely disappointed with the conclusion of its season.

Injuries are an inevitable evil in any sport; very rarely do teams at any level in any activity complete a season without them, but the Lakers can reasonably stake their name to the claim that they received more than their fair share of punishment from the basketball gods a year ago.

Des Lacs-Burlington saw three of its key contributors, Cambrey Benno with stress fractures, Krysta Berard with an ACL injury, and Emily DeGree with a rolled ankle, suffer season-ending injuries at different points throughout the 2020-21 campaign.

The remaining Lakers pressed on without three of their leaders and still managed a berth in the Region 6 tournament at the Auditorium representing the fourth seed out of District 12.

The group drew a matchup in the opening round with District 11’s top-seeded Rugby Panthers and saw its campaign come to an abrupt halt with their 56-26 defeat to a Rugby team that would fall in the Region 6 title game to Glenburn in a 47-45 thriller.

“They came much further than most people thought they would,” head coach Tracy Bonn recalled. “The girls who were still trucking and playing for me at the end really did a good job.”

None of the aforementioned losses to injury a year ago have returned to the team this season, Bonn said, for various reasons, mostly due to lingering injury and continuing recovery. Each saw time with the Lakers’ volleyball team that made history with its first state tournament appearance in 20 years this fall but decided against putting their bodies through more torment with the start of a new season in another sport this winter.

Without Benno, Berard and DeGree, a much younger Des Lacs-Burlington squad has hit the ground running this winter, coming out on the winning end of each of its first three contests against Harvey/Wells County, Tioga and Hazen. The group eked out a one-point win against the Hornets Nov. 30 before routing the Pirates and Bison by a combined 48 points on back-to-back days Dec. 2-3.

“Their hard work is kind of amazing,” Bonn continued. “They just do whatever they’re asked to do, they accept any role that they are given that day, and they just work.”

MacKenzie Rist, the team’s leader in scoring through the season’s first three contests with 11 points per game, and Madison Lauf are the lone seniors paving the Lakers’ way this season. Only one other junior, Deborah Amsden, completes the trio of upperclassmen.

“MacKenzie is definitely our leader as far as she’s quick, and when she’s hustling and getting after loose balls, everybody follows,” Bonn noted. “Maddie, she’s our floor general. She’s the verbal leader of the team, she repeats everything I say and the girls are right behind her.”

The early success on the offensive end of the floor Rist and Lauf have spearheaded is a point of encouragement for a team looking to improve its production on the scoreboard.

Des Lacs-Burlington shot just under 34 percent from the field a year ago, and notched a success rate beyond the arc of 24.5 percent en route to averaging just over 43 points per game, a mark the Lakers topped in their most recent matchup with Hazen, a 48-17 win on their home floor.

Where the team is already solid, Bonn stated, is on the other end of the court. The early returns have been promising, as the club has held its opposition to 24 points or fewer in both of its last two games to build upon the success Des Lacs-Burlington exhibited last year. The 2020-21 Lakers racked up 214 steals and 61 blocks in their 20 games.

“They are a team. To watch them move together as a team and to come in and out of the game, they communicate with each other,” Bonn said. “They’re really impressive with how well they’re working together.”

Bonn and her Lakers are aiming high this season, hoping for a berth in the state tournament near winter’s end for the first time since 1990, but first gunning for a higher finish in the regional dance.

“I think the goal after every season would be to do better than you did the year before,” she said. “They’re probably one of the most well-rounded teams as far as working hard on the court but then also having fun when that’s appropriate. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a team that seems to have gelled as well and as quickly as this one.”


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