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Girls basketball: New-look Rebels fall to mighty Rangers, remain upbeat

Being a former collegiate runner at NCAA Division I Mississippi State, Padrick Judd knows what it's like to move quickly. Such is life for the 33-year-old elementary physical education teacher who moved to the area this past summer and has had th...

Moose Lake-Willow River's Ella Rhoades shoots in front of Mountain Iron-Buhl's Mia Ganyo during Tuesday night's basketball game. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal
Moose Lake-Willow River's Ella Rhoades shoots in front of Mountain Iron-Buhl's Mia Ganyo during Tuesday night's basketball game. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal

Being a former collegiate runner at NCAA Division I Mississippi State, Padrick Judd knows what it's like to move quickly.

Such is life for the 33-year-old elementary physical education teacher who moved to the area this past summer and has had the task of taking over the Moose Lake-Willow River girls basketball program in the process.

That transition has been seamless for Judd, who along with his top-level collegian days as a runner, was a teacher and varsity hoops coach in Hastings, Minn., for the past several seasons before moving north. At 6-foot-3, the coach is tall, lean and an upbeat machine.

"It's been so positive," said senior Charis Blacklock. "He encourages us. He believes in us."

"I've had a lot of positives with the kids," added Judd, following a 79-37 loss at mighty Mountain Iron-Buhl Tuesday night, Dec. 11. "This community has been fantastic in welcoming in my family."

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Following Dustin Wright - now the head girls coach three hours southwest of here at Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart - Judd has brought a revived spirit to the cooperative Rebels' program, centered around energy and encouragement.

"Everyone gets (to practice) as soon as they can," said freshman Natalie Mikrot, who had a team-high 18 points Tuesday. "More girls are coming early and staying late."

The team got home late Tuesday after their lopsided loss to the Rangers, ranked second in Class A and home to a brand-new gym this winter.

In fact, the venue is spiffy, as along with being doused in their red and gold school colors, the gym is equipped with a spacious floor, comfortable seating and a color video board, including past Rangers' hoops history. MIB still uses their spotlight for team introductions, cutting the lights off before tipoff. While the action is going on, full-length glass windows along the east end offer pristine views for fans.

Speaking of gyms, ML-WR's home court is just in its second season at their new school in Moose Lake, and one that Judd is positively pushing his players at daily.

Along with the team's top-scoring Mikrot back, teammate Ella Rhoades can also put it in the bucket, as the sophomore added 10 points Tuesday. The pair mixes well with a group of seven seniors, including Blacklock, Elliana Schaumburg and Megan Granquist, Judd noted. The team was 8-19 a season ago, but with several victories already, the Rebels (3-3) are nearly halfway to their win total in mid-December and are ready to turn the corner.

"We've already been more competitive in games than in years past," said Blacklock. "We're seeing the results."

"Everybody wants to get on the floor - they love to play," added Judd. "I can turn to anybody, and they will go in and do what's best for the team. That makes my life easy as a coach."

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Jeff Buffetta sure makes coaching look easy at MIB, as the Rangers (5-0) had 11 scorers Tuesday, led my Macy Savela's game-high 19 points, as the uptempo Rangers led a physically-played game 31-14 at halftime, never to look back.

Not surprising for a program at the top of the mountain for nearly the last decade, having won the past eight consecutive Section 7A titles.

"The quest is to block out the last eight and try to get better to get this one," said Buffetta, so sick Tuesday he nearly lost his voice.

"We hung in there until halftime, but then we got pretty wore out after that," said Mikrot on the bus ride home, sitting near her new coach. "They're pretty well-rounded."

As is the busy Judd, always on go, pushing the pace with his new players.

"We're always moving," said Blacklock with a laugh. "We're improving and getting better. It's been a lot of fun."

Moose Lake-WR 14-23-37

Mountain Iron-Buhl 31-48-79

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Moose Lake-WR - Skyla Thompson 2, Natalie Mikrot 18, Dallis Kukuk 5, Ella Rhoades 10, Kennedy Janke 2. Totals 12 10-11 37.

3-point goals - Mikrot 3.

Mountain Iron-Buhl - Laney Ryan 4, Jacie Kvas 3, Macy Savela 19, Brooke Niska 8, Miah Gellerstedt 9, Allie Negen 10, Sage Ganyo 4, Madisen Overbye 7, Mia Ganyo 2, Mattison Bennett 6, Lauren Maki 7. Totals 34 5-9 79.

3-point goals - Savela 2, Niska, Gellerstedt, Overbye, Maki.

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