Youth is served in District 621

The girls basketball teams from Irondale and Mounds View squared off for their annual intra-district game on Dec. 4 and their lineups were somewhat unique. Of the 10 players who started the game, only two were seniors.

Throw in the non-starters who scored at least one point and that list grows to only four. It's safe to say that the two high school teams are in the midst of a youth movement.

"We have a new group of kids," said Mounds View head coach Dave Montgomery. "We're young, as you can see."

Captain Mara Balzer starts and is the only senior on Mounds View's roster. She is joined in the starting lineup by juniors Erin Saemrow and Hannah Van Sickle and sophomores Sara Wendt and Mia Wendt. Also seeing significant playing time on Friday were juniors Sophie Fixsen and Mary Wilhelmy and eighth grader Lindsey Becher.

Irondale's lineup is even younger with senior Sydney Driggs headlining a starting five that also included sophomores Sophia Findell and Sarah Loken and freshmen Eva Dunnell and Kaley Waldemar.

With the inexperience on the floor, Friday's game got ragged at times.

"There are stretches where we really struggle on offense and stretches where we turn it over a ton," Montgomery said. "We're patient. It's 'big picture.' We’re trying to win every game but we have to understand where they are as players."

Despite the uneven play, the game itself was close all the way through. Mounds View led by as many as 10 in the second half but Irondale mounted a comeback that Driggs led.

She scored 10 of the Knights' final 15 points, including three straight free throws that tied the game and sent it to overtime.

Irondale led by three at one point in the extra session but Mounds View outscored the Knights 10-5 to pull out the 71-69 victory.

"It's fun when the kids come through and sometimes they get a little nervous," said Montgomery. "It's good. They learn from that."

Saemrow is Mounds View's top returning scorer from last year's team and she led all scorers in the Irondale game with 27 points. Sara Wendt added 19 and Fixsen also reached double figures with 11.

Driggs set the pace for Irondale with 20 points and Ashley Polson chipped in with a dozen.

The victory over Irondale improved Mounds View's record to 2-0. The Mustangs opened the season on Dec. 1 with an 80-56 thumping of Chisago Lakes as Sara Wendt led all scorers with 22 points. Wilhelmy added 13 and Saemrow scored 12.

Coming up on the schedule for Mounds View this week are two more non-conference games and the Suburban East Conference opener. The Mustangs travel to Mahtomedi on Dec. 8 and host North St. Paul on Dec. 9. Mounds View kicks off conference play with a home game on Dec. 11 against Forest Lake. Those three teams are a combined 2-5 thus far.

Irondale falls to 0-2 with the loss. The Knights opened their season on Dec. 1 with a 60-53 loss to former North Suburban Conference-mate St. Louis Park. Driggs and Dunnell both reached double figures in scoring with 15 and 14 points, respectively.

The Knights play three times this week and all three games are on the road. They open the week with a trip to Wayzata on Dec. 8 and then play their first Northwest Suburban Conference game of the season on Dec. 11 at Maple Grove. It's then back to non-conference play on Dec. 12 as Irondale visits Farmington.

Former Mustang now at Moorhead

Mounds View's leading scorer from last year was Jacky Volkert. The former Mustang standout is now playing college basketball at the Division II level at Minnesota State University-Moorhead.

Volkert, a 1,000-point scorer as a prep player, has appeared in all six of the Dragons' games and is averaging almost 21 minutes per game. She leads the team in assists with 17 and is sixth on the team in scoring with a points-per-game average of 5.2. She is shooting 48 percent from the floor and 57 percent from three-point range.

MSU is off to a 6-0 start, including 3-0 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference games. The Dragons are at home this weekend for a pair of NSIC tilts as St. Cloud State pays a visit on Dec. 11 and Minnesota-Duluth comes in on Dec. 12.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com or 651-748-7819. Follow him on Twitter @BMeyersNews.
 

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