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Prep girls basketball preview: Barnum's success starts with the work ethic off the court

Katrina and Jessica Newman became adept at working together to accomplish a common goal long before they began playing basketball at Barnum High School.

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Katrina and Jessica Newman became adept at working together to accomplish a common goal long before they began playing basketball at Barnum High School.

The sisters honed their work ethic and learned the meaning of teamwork growing up on the family's dairy farm just outside Barnum.

"Our parents, from the beginning, always told us that you have to work hard if you want to be successful. And as a family, we have to work as a team," Katrina said. "We've always grown up with [chores] and it helped us understand how to be a teammate and how to be a leader on the court. We learned that at a young age."

The life lesson has served the Bombers well on the court. After three top-three state tournament finishes since 2006, Barnum (5-1) is ranked No. 1 in Class A. The Bombers returned all five starters from the record-breaking team that went 32-1, losing only to eventual champion Ada-Borup in the state semifinals.

"I think we have the skill to [win a title], we just have to stay together as a team and pull it off," said Katrina, a 6-foot senior who led the Bombers in scoring (21.3 points per game), rebounding (8.8), assists (4.7) and steals (4.5) last season.

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The girls and their brothers Justin (Jessica's twin) and seventh-grader Brandon, are offsprings of coaches.

Rich Newman is in his 13th season coaching the boys basketball team, while his wife of 18 years, Corina, has guided the volleyball team the past six years.

"When they were small, we'd have all four in the gym working on fundamentals," Rich said.

Katrina said: "Being a coach's daughter means growing up in the gym."

That extra court time is apparent when watching the girls' games. The Newmans are knowledgeable and are able to play several different positions.

"There's no question that Kat and Jess are what I call CKs -- coaches' kids," Barnum coach Randy Myhre said. "They've been around sports a long time and their court awareness shows up. Nobody works harder than Kat. No matter what kind of difficult situation we are in, she just doesn't disappoint anyone because of her work ethic."

The girls' work ethic likely was derived by helping take care of 30 to 40 dairy cows and their calves. Besides schoolwork and playing three sports, feeding, milking and haying are among the teens' regular chores.

"You need to manage your time wisely," said Jessica, a 5-foot-11 junior. "My parents expect good grades and the best in everything that you are going to do, so you apply yourself."

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Katrina says chores always come first. By doing them together, the siblings learn the value of teamwork, she says.

"Being involved in something keeps me from becoming a procrastinator; it keeps me honest with myself," she said. "If you have just one person doing chores, it'll take forever for them. If we all do it together, it'll go faster and give us time to do our homework."

Katrina has signed a letter of intent to play for Minnesota Duluth in the 2010-11 season. Her sister also has received plenty of interest from the Bulldogs for the following season.

"I would love to play four more years of basketball with my sister," Jessica said. "It's a good option, an option that's going to be kept open."

Barnum's lone loss was a five-pointer to New Prague, a Class AAA school, at the Breakdown Tip-Off Classic earlier this month. Myhre says that defeat proves the Bombers need to play better before they can begin thinking about the school's first championship.

"It exposed some weaknesses that we've been trying to correct, but that was a very good learning experience for us," he said.

Bertha-Hewitt (6-0) is expected to be Barnum's toughest competition in Section 5A. Two-time champion Ada-Borup graduated nine seniors, so the path may be clear if the Bombers return to the state tournament.

"It's still a great accomplishment to finish second or third in state, but it would be nice to finish it off for the seniors," Jessica said.

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-- Bigfork, with three seniors who averaged in double figures a year ago, is favored to repeat its title in Section 7A. But Floodwood, off to a 7-2 start with losses to Barnum and one it avenged vs. Esko, has an experienced starting lineup and a healthy bench that could guide it back to the section final. Cook County, a 2009 semifinalist, returns all five starters, including shot-blocking and rebounding specialist Essa Jacobsen (14.3 ppg, 14.3 rpg), while Nashwauk-Keewatin's senior duo of Lindsey Kingsbury and Elizabeth Sletten combined for 30 points and 19 rebounds a game in 2008-09 and helped the Spartans defeat Hermantown last weekend.

duluth schools face long odds

If early season results are any indication, it could be a short playoff stay for Duluth schools.

Duluth East (3-3) is the lone Northland school in Class AAAA and must overcome the graduation of Marisa Yernatich, the city's all-time leading girls scorer. Junior Macie Dorow (11.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) is the only starter with much experience.

Central, Denfeld and Marshall entered the week with a combined 3-14 record. Central, likely in its final season of athletics, has only two players with varsity experience; Denfeld, with five seniors, has played teams tough in the early going but lacks height; and depth-challenged Marshall, off a 6-20 season, is just trying to stay competitive after four losses by 36 points or more.

Bemidji (6-1), which returns four seniors and 6-3 junior Kayla Hirt (24.4 ppg, 11.4 rpg last season), moves into Section 7AAA as immediate favorites. The main contenders are defending champion Grand Rapids, minus Brynn Joki but with four key players back; Hermantown, led by seniors Nicole Niemi, Jessica Love and Megan Mullen (combined 30 ppg last year); and a Hibbing team led by senior volleyball standouts Laicee Grahek (14.6 ppg) and Kate Lange.

-- Esko graduated Roz Chromy and Kelli Rengo from its 23-5 team, but returns skilled athletes Amanda Bergstedt and Keely Deadrick and has height in 6-6 freshman Savanna Trapp. The Eskomos, 7-1 after losing Saturday in the final of the Esko Coaches Classic, have plenty of competition in Section 7AA with 20-game-plus winners Braham, Deer River and Aitkin.

Related Topics: BARNUMBASKETBALL
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