Northeast Nodaway’s girls basketball team was one of the youngest in the state last season with a trio of freshmen in the starting lineup to go with two juniors and no seniors on the entire roster.
Despite that, the Bluejays were still able to finish the season with a winning record at 15-11, but with the entire roster returning for 2018-2019, they are hopeful for an even better season this year.
“It feels like we are definitely ahead of where we were at this time last year,” Northeast Nodaway coach Joyce Stiens said. “The freshmen grew a lot over last season and the summer. Things are becoming easier for them.”
The Jays are led by their two senior returners in guard Makayla Adwell and forward Gerry Runde. Adwell was the leader for the Northeast Nodaway backcourt last season with 10.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.3 steals per game.
“I’m pretty pumped,” Adwell said. “We have a pretty good team and I think it will be a pretty good year. … We have made a lot of improvements during the summer.”
Adwell took on a bulk of the team’s ball-handling responsibility last season with freshmen Blair Stoll and Paige West starting alongside her in the backcourt, but as the season developed West and Stoll were able to handle the ball more and allow Adwell to work off-ball.
“They have really improved a lot,” Adwell said. “They are not afraid anymore. They used to be a little timid, but they have really stepped out of that and into their comfort zone now.”
While Adwell was the veteran in the backcourt, Runde led the young frontcourt players for the Jays. Runde ended up leading Northeast Nodaway in scoring at 12.4 points per game.
She also grabbed 5.2 rebounds a game, but was able to stretch the floor with 43 made three-pointers on the season.
“I am hoping for a winning season again,” Runde said. “I am hoping to beat some of those bigger teams like Mound City, Jefferson, Worth County.”
A primary benefactor of Runde stretching the court was freshman center Madelynn Mattson, who was given plenty of space to operate inside. Mattson took advantage by scoring 11.6 points per game and grabbing 5.4 rebounds.
“She is pretty good,” Runde said with a grin. “She is probably better than me in the post area. She really doesn’t need very many tips from me.”
Continued growth from Mattson and the rest of the eight-girl sophomore class will be the biggest key for the Bluejays this season.
“The whole team worked hard in the offseason as far as learning how to play together and I think that is the biggest thing,” Stiens said. “We are all more comfortable in our roles this year, especially the sophomores. They are more confident with the ball and they can take care of the ball. … We have got everything there, we just have to keep bringing it along.”
Sophomores Cassy Redden, Anne Schieber and Angela Standiford give the Jays three more players who saw time last season and should continue to grow this season.
Northeast Nodaway will play in next week’s Platte Valley Invitational where they draw Union Star on Monday at 4 p.m. in Union Star.
“I think our thing is we want to start the season where we ended off last year,” Stiens said. “Then we want to go into districts prepared for districts this year. Our goal is not to be one-and-done this year.”