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Tough finish overshadows Fliers’ great start

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 12th, 2013

The Flandreau Fliers girls’ basketball team finished the 2011-12 season with a 7-15 record. The team had high hopes for 2013 with all but one player returning from the year prior and they started the 2012-13 season off on a high note, but a string of tough opponents put a roadblock in the Fliers path of success.

After losing to Chester Area in their first game of the season, the Fliers went on to win four of their next five games and six of next nine to start the year 6-4.

“The kids were playing very well and had adjusted to their roles for us to be successful. We were pretty balanced on offense and that was creating match up problems,” 17th year head coach Brian Relf said. “At the time, we were able to play the inside/outside game offensively and the kids were responding very well,” he added.

But then things changed, the Fliers were down one of their key players to injury and they were playing the toughest part of their schedule. The Fliers went on to lose the final 10 games of the regular season against opponents, that combined, had an 111-98 regular season record, four of those games were against teams that reached this year’s State tournament.

“Having Marisa [Hare] injured really hurt us because she does a lot of things for us that don’t always show up in the scorebook.” But there was a lot more to the struggles than just that according to Relf.

“We didn’t shoot the ball as well as we had been earlier in our first ten games. We also had a number of turnovers in games that limited our shot attempts. We got away from the roles I mentioned earlier and forced some things,” mentioned Relf. “We found ourselves facing some very good teams and they forced us to do things that we weren’t comfortable with,” he added.

After the regular season was all said and done, the Fliers were 6-14 and the No. 3 seed in the District 5A tournament. They were forced to travel to Elkton to take on the No. 2 seed Elkton-Lake Benton Elks in a rematch of the 2012 District 5A game that ended the Fliers season. Flandreau was able to defeat the Elks, 40-37, in their only other meeting of the year on December 11th.

Despite the taste of 10 straight losses in their mouths, the Fliers battled to defeated the Elks 44-33 to advance to the District 5A title game. “Beating Elkton/Lake Benton really was an emotional lift for the kids. The win let them see the rewards for their efforts,” Relf said.

But the Fliers weren’t able to repeat their performance a few nights later against Madison, losing 51-40 in the District 5A Championship game and ending the Fliers season with a 7-15 record for the second year in a row.

Makayla Dietrich led the Fliers offensively all year. She averaged over 12 points per game (ppg), tallying 269 points over the 22 game season. But she wasn’t just a shooter; she also led the Fliers in assists (30) and rebounds with 108 (4.9 per game).

“Makayla has put in many hours in the gym and weight room. In many of our games this season she was the focal point of our opponent’s defensive schemes, sometimes drawing double and triple teams,” said Relf. But that didn’t stop her from being the Fliers’ most dominant player in 2013.

After Dietrich, scoring was hard to come by for the Fliers. Their second leading scorer, Marisa Hare, only played in seven games before getting injured and Kelly Johanson missed a handful of games at the beginning of the season. Johanson still averaged six points per game and was one of the Fliers key outside threats.

Kendra Duncan was also able to get to the basket for the Fliers, averaging just less than five points per game, while being the Fliers best perimeter shooter, hitting 12 of her 50 three-point attempts.

Duncan, Dietrich, and Johanson are just three of the six Flier seniors that careers came to an end this year. Kara Uilk, Brice Rose and Kiesha Jackson all finished up their stints in the purple and gold.

“Six seniors will graduate and I appreciate the contributions they have made to the basketball program in Flandreau,” Relf said.

The Fliers are going to need some younger players to step in to fill the large holes left by the senior class’s departure. Luckily for Flandreau, they were able to get a few youngsters some playing time.

Freshman Hannah Williams averaged 4.9 ppg for the Fliers as well as proving she will be a more than adequate at dominating the glass. She was second on the team with 66 total rebounds, averaging 3.1 boards per game.

Sophomore Shanaya Lunday also proved she will be an impactful player for the Fliers in 2013-14. Lunday really helped the team on the offensive side of the ball once Hare went down and will be a force down low with Williams for years to come.

“Hannah and Shanaya both have different skills and those skills allow them to play really well together. Their contributions this year will not only help them with their confidence but will also help them grow as players and help our program as well,” Relf said about his young forwards.

Although the season did not end the way the Fliers had wished, there wasn’t much Relf would change. “The biggest thing would be to have everyone healthy and available for all 22 of our games. I felt our kids gave us great effort each night we played so I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

For a complete list of the Flandreau girls’ basketball stats, visit www.maxpreps.com.

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