New group of Bulldog players will get chance to make a name for themselves

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Members of the MFL MarMac girls basketball team are (front, left to right) Kacie Picha, Cora Keehner, Brooke Hackett, Keagan Echard, Maddie Keehner, Autumn Shaw, Jerica Wille; (back) Ariana Fish, Kaitlin Picha, Brooklynn Moon, Hannah Bogdonovich, Grace Anderson, Ashley Shaw and Caydence Moon. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


The MFL MarMac girls basketball team will feature some new faces and a different offensive focus this season, but the expectation remains the same: to challenge for the Upper Iowa Conference and make a postseason run.


“It doesn’t matter who we have coming back. We just hope we can replace what we had and retool,” said sixth year head coach Jason Winter. “We’re going to come out and give everything we’ve got and see what happens.”


The Bulldogs will be led by Grace Anderson, Brooklynn Moon and Ashley Shaw, seniors who’ve all seen varsity playing time. But with multi-year starters gone from last season’s UIC champion team, including all-state selection Riley Moreland, the three will be expected to play more minutes.


Anderson will be MFL MarMac’s inside post presence.


“She’s one of the best players we’ve had as far as getting position in the post. She plays bigger than what she looks. She can score on just about anybody, kind of hangs in the air a bit and can get her shot off,” Winter said. “She’s also a little quicker this year, which I think is going to be a benefit.”


Shaw started nine games a season ago—and played in all 24. Brooklynn Moon tallied 14 starts and was one of the team’s leading three-point threats. Winter also looks for key contributions from senior Caydence Moon, whom he called a good shooter, and juniors Hannah Bogdonovich and Kaitlin Picha.


The coach described Bogdonovich as one of the best all-around athletes the program has had. She can score at all three levels, handle the ball and jump.


“Hannah put a lot of time in over the summer and I think you’re going to see that,” Winter said. “She’s coming into her own, and I’m looking for big things from her to step up and be one of our major scorers along with Brooklynn and Grace.”


Picha returns healthy after knee injury riddled freshman and sophomore seasons. Winter credits her for not giving up on the sport. 


“I don’t know a kid who’s had a rougher high school start. But she’s still here. She’s still working. That tells me her commitment and dedication and how bad she wants it as a player and a person. That means a lot to me as a coach,” he said.


Picha will play point guard for the Bulldogs and is one of the team’s best defenders.


“As she gets experience, you’re going to see her start to grow by leaps and bounds. She’s got a lot of potential,” Winter added.


MFL MarMac will have to contend with a lack of height this season. As a result, the offense will be more perimeter-oriented than in the past. The 35-second shot clock, implemented for the first time this year, will also challenge players to get the best shot off as efficiently as possible, according to Winter.


“We’re going to have to be very scrappy and get after it full court. Then, hopefully, we’ve got a shot that can fall,” he said. “We’ve got some girls who are capable of shooting it, and we’ve also got some girls who are pretty decent drivers.”


Winter doesn’t anticipate the shot clock will affect MFL MarMac much offensively. 


“We kind of like to run and gun a little bit. That’s probably not going to change, and if anything, we might get it off a little quicker this year,” he said.


The shot clock should help most defensively, where the Bulldogs like to get after opposing teams.


“People aren’t going to be able to hold the ball on us forever—they’re going to have to attack,” the coach explained. 


Winter is excited this season will offer opportunities for a new group of players to make a name for themselves and show what they can do. 


“They’ve been waiting in the wings the last couple years because we had a lot of kids who played major minutes. They’ve been waiting to get their opportunity, and I think they’re going to surprise some people,” he said.


Due to a lack of depth, it will be important for the Bulldogs to stay healthy. 


“If we can stay healthy, the girls’ attitudes have been great. They lace ‘em up and play hard, which I’m encouraged about,” Winter said. 


He expects state-ranked Central to be the team to beat in the Upper Iowa Conference this year. The Bulldogs will face the Warriors in the Nov. 22 season opener in Elkader, followed by a tough non-conference opponent in Waukon on Nov. 28.


“I wish we weren’t getting [Central] right off the bat. It’s a big game, right at the start of the year, trying to defend our conference title. It’s not easy because we start pretty tough,” Winter said.


MFL MarMac players always expect to be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally, though. 


“The girls who come out know they’re going to work. By the end of the season, they know they’ve accomplished something,” said Winter. “Hopefully you’re going to get more out of basketball than just basketball. Hopefully we can teach life lessons.”

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