Rhinelander’s Kenedy Van Zile handles the ball during a girls’ basketball scrimmage against Wisconsin Dells at JustAgame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells Saturday, Nov. 16. Van Zile, the Hodags’ leading scorer from last season, scored 35 points in four scrimmage sessions on Saturday. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
Rhinelander’s Rebecca Lawrence drives toward the basket during a girls’ basketball scrimmage against Melrose-Mindoro at JustAgame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells Saturday, Nov. 16.
11/19/2019 7:31:00 AM Lady Hodags show rust at scrimmage
WISCONSIN DELLS - If the Rhinelander High School girls' basketball team thought a Great Northern Conference championship repeat would be an easy feat, it got a wake-up call Saturday in a preseason tune-up.
The Hodags struggled from the field, and with ball security, as they unofficially dropped three out of four sessions in a scrimmage at JustAgame Fieldhouse in Wisconsin Dells.
Rhinelander squandered early leads to fall to Melrose-Mindoro (25-20) and Wisconsin Dells (30-25), rallied late to beat Eau Claire North (31-28) and then were blown out by Holmen (40-19) in a session where the team's three returning starters saw limited minutes.
The Hodags are coming off a 17-6 campaign and their first ever conference title. Despite returning three of their four leading scorers from that team, including GNC player of the year Kenedy Van Zile, coach Ryan Clark warned that this season is a new season.
"We played four pretty good teams that gave us an honest evaluation of where we're at individually and as a team," he said. "We have a long way to go, there's no question. We definitely don't feel great about ourselves. I think the girls had a pretty good awakening that we've got a long way to go to be a good basketball team."
There were two main bugaboos for the Hodags on Saturday - poor shooting and ball security. Rhinelander shot only 7 of 25 from the field in each of its first two sessions, and was 33 percent overall on the day (34 of 103). That included a 22-percent clip from beyond the 3-point arc. Rhinelander also committed at least 10 turnovers in each of the 30-minute running clock sessions, including 16 each against Wisconsin Dells and Holmen.
"The decision making on the turnovers was really bad," Clark said. "Some of it was good defense against us and aggressive defense. Some of it was we'd either dribble into a bad spot or we'd just force a pass into a bad spot. We've got to clean that up ... At this pace, we'd have around 40 a game. I think we will (clean it up). We'll put the ball in the right kids' hands for that.
"Shooting is an issue as we go forward. Our press should create enough turnovers where we can get a lot of shots at the lane, but I would say the concern is outside shooting has to be more consistent and we need more than just Kenedy as a reliable 3-point shooter."
But even Van Zile, who hit a team-best 75 3-pointers last year, struggled from distance on Saturday. She made her first two attempts, but then hit only one the rest of the day, finishing 3 of 19 from distance. Van Zile led the team with 35 points and 12 rebounds between the four sessions. The senior was the only player in double digits for the team. The team's two other returning starters - junior Rebecca Lawrence and senior Cynthia Beavers - had eight and four points respectively.
The limited production on Saturday was partly by design as the Hodags looked to see who could fill the roles of the two seniors they lost to graduation from last year's team - Brooke Mork and Payton Van Zile.
"I just wanted to see where were at and who can play at the varsity level, because it's a big jump from JV to varsity," Clark said.
Sophomore Annika Johnson had the second-highest point total on the team with nine - which came on a string of 3-pointers that tied the Wisconsin Dells scrimmage at 25. She also added seven rebounds. Lawrence, junior Ella Schiek and freshman Ava Lamers each scored eight points while sophomore forward Brynn Brzycki added seven.
"I think we probably have five or six confident kids that can go on the varsity court right now and we're going to need a few more than that. I know I have our three (returning starters) that are solid. Sophia (McGinnis) is solid. I think Annika today established herself. She's a confident kid on the court. From there, I thought Ella had some good moments defensively for us. Megan Brown, Audrey Schiek and Brynn, that will have to work itself out to see who can play there."
The scrimmage concluded the first week of practice for the Hodags, who open the regular season at home on Thursday against Merrill. The Bluejays edged Rhinelander 57-55 in last year's season opener despite a 40-point effort from Kenedy Van Zile.
"They always give us a tough battle and they might be one of the few teams in the Northwoods that really control our tempo," Clark said. "We have yet to get them to play at our speed. Merrill's done a real good job. They want to grind it an utilize their bigs and their size, be very patient and they've been able to do that in summer league and in the regular season."
Tipoff is slated for 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached email@example.com.
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