Improvement continues for Wrenshall boys, girls basketballLopsided losses don’t tell the whole story. Coach Michelle Blanchard will tell you: the Wrenshall girls basketball team is getting better. The scores bear witness to that improvement.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Lopsided losses don’t tell the whole story. Coach Michelle Blanchard will tell you: the Wrenshall girls basketball team is getting better. The scores bear witness to that improvement.
The struggling Wrens scored just 31 points total in their opening three games this winter. Since then, however, Blanchard’s bunch has averaged over 27 points per contest.
“Our scores are getting a little bit higher,” said Blanchard, in her second year at Wrenshall. “We have seen a lot of improvement so far and we’re getting better.”
Although it may seem like miniscule gains, Wrenshall (0-6) is slowly but surely inching its way towards success. Yes, the Wrens have lost 41 straight games dating back to January 2009. However, times are getting better at the small school.
Don’t forget they’re playing arguably the toughest conference around.
“The Polar League is tough,” Blanchard said, “especially when you don’t have a bench like Esko did Monday.”
Blanchard mentioned earlier this season that their program’s numbers have increased immensely, but trying to compete against state-ranked teams like No. 1 unbeaten Barnum – the defending state champs – unblemished Esko and talented Floodwood can be a daunting task.
The No. 7 Eskomos disposed of the Wrens 82-27 Monday in Wrenshall. Blanchard noted Esko (8-0) used their depth to their advantage, and her girls did their best.
“We don’t have a ton of girls who play a lot of minutes and we’ve had some injuries, too,” she said, “but our five starters really worked hard
Esko tallied four players in double figures Monday, as the conference clash was never in question. Yet, Wrenshall junior center Maria Burcar led all scorers with 23 points.
The 6-foot-2 Burcar is the foundation for the inexperienced Wrens.
“She went to a few camps and played a lot during the summer,” said Blanchard of her captain. “She’s our best shooter and has really improved. She has a great attitude and has better self confidence in herself. She wants to play in college.”
Burcar is in her third year on the varsity; she is aided by fellow juniors Natalie Peaney, Samantha Oland and Sydney Ellerbe, making the future look bright for the Wrens.
“We’re mostly juniors,” Blanchard said. “We’ll keep our heads up and continue to work on things. Hopefully we’ll get a win. The girls are thinking maybe Silver Bay. We’ll see.”
The Wrens will be back in conference action again Thursday when they travel to flat-out favorite Barnum, before busing their way up the road to Carlton to challenge the Bulldogs Tuesday.
Wrenshall boys led by senior Brett Johnson
Meanwhile, the Wrenshall boys basketball team might be the best winless squad in the state.
The Wrens have lost three of their first six games by less than 10 points, including a barn-burner against AlBrook-Cotton three weeks ago and an overtime game at Two Harbors the following night.
Against the Falcons, Wrenshall watched their halftime lead slip away, while against the rival Agates, a broken play in the final seconds turned into a game-tying 3-pointer off the backboard at the end of regulation for Two Harbors. The Agates went on to win by five in the extra frame.
“Nine times out of 10, the kid would have missed that shot,” said Wrens coach Joel Swanson of the fluke buzzer-beater made by the Agates. “Oh well. We’ve been competitive.”
Sitting with a goose egg by their name, Wrenshall (0-6) has been halted this winter by lack of depth. According to Swanson, seven or eight kids play significant minutes, but after 18 minutes, his youngsters struggle with stamina.
“We’re competitive in the first half,” Swanson said, “but in the second we just get worn out.”
The Wrens are led by their lone senior and only varsity returnee, Brett Johnson, as the score-happy guard averages over 23 points per game. Most recently, he led the Wrenshall attack with 13 points in an 80-35 loss at Polar League nemesis Esko (8-0) Tuesday evening.
“[Johnson] is a gym rat,” said Swanson. “He likes to drive the lane and is really teaching the kids how to be competitive. He’s kept us in a lot of ball games this year. Hopefully it continues, but we need some more help. It can’t all just be one guy.”
Johnson has been aided by a crew of younger, inexperienced players including sophomores Derek Duncan, Jack Dolter, Mark Mallon, Mitch Frank and junior center Peter Granholm.
“It takes a desire to win and these kids have that,” Swanson said. “We’ve given winning efforts, but we’re just going to have to gut it out. Outside of Brett, you’re looking at a JV team, but these kids have played a lot of games down to the wire. We’re looking forward to the
Next on the schedule for the Wrens is a date against rival Barnum at home Friday night, then the team will challenge unbeaten Lakeview Christian Academy Tuesday at Woodland Hills.