Gering, Mitchell girls hit the court for scrimmages
     2012-11-29      By Terry Gaston   
Photos by Sheila Weber/for the Citizen Mitchell's McKenna Zulkoski breaks for an opening as teammates Havannah Newens (back) and Chalsey Grentz, left, prepart to defend against Gering offensive action by Katie O'Boyle on Saturday during season warm up games hosted by the Mitchell Tigers. 
MITCHELL- Third-year Gering girls' basketball coach Adam Freeburg and first-year Mitchell girls' coach Brock Ehler both saw some positive action from their respective teams Saturday night in the Nebraska Sports Hall of Fame Jamboree played at Mitchell High School.

The Bulldogs and Tigers were joined by Crawford for the event, in which three one-half scrimmages were played in triangular fashion.

No scoring or official stats were kept; both Freeburg and Ehler, who coached the Gering seniors when they were freshmen, will wait until their respective season-opening games Thursday to keep the numbers.

Freeburg, whose team finished last season 8-15 and lost all five starters, said his new lineup of players has practiced well together and their scrimmages against Mitchell and Crawford were filled with positive results.

"I thought we did really well and we kept everything under control," Freeburg said. "Going in, we wanted to work on multiple things, and on our defense we ran some man, zone and mixed in some press a little bit, too."

Seniors Megan Upp and Alexa Anderson provide the most experience among the Bulldogs' returnees, with a core group of returning senior reserves -- Dakota Gellner, Nicole Michael, Santanna Mitchell and Brooke Satur -- ready to make the step into the full-time varsity lineup.

"We figuring out what works best for us," Freeburg said. "I am pleased with how hard the girls all seem to work well together."

Gering heads over to Torrington to open the season and Western Conference Tournament play Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

"I anticipate it to be a pretty evenly-matched game," Freeburg said of facing the Blazers, who also start the year with a new lineup.

"We are going to try to fine-tune everything," he said of preparing for game action. "We realize we are not going to be a finished product by any means, and we need to work on a few things that came up during the scrimmage, and hopefully we will carry that enthusiasm into Torrington on Thursday night."

Regardless of their Thursday result, the Bulldogs will play Friday at 5 p.m. against Chadron or Scottsbluff. A Gering win Thursday would put the Bulldogs in semifinal action at Western Nebraska Community College's Cougar Palace, while a first-round loss puts Gering into consolation semifinal play at Scottsbluff High School.

Ehler, who was Mitchell boys' coach Kirk Kuxhausen's assistant the past two years, inherits an experienced group of two full-time starters in seniors Chalsey Grentz and Havannah Newens and four other varsity-experienced players in juniors Taylor Peters and Mikaela Karpen, senior Brianne Hessler and sophomore Aspen Reifschneider.

The Tigers were 11-13 last season, but with Ehler implementing a new system, success may not necessarily be reflected in Mitchell's record -- especially this weekend against much larger schools.

"I feel good, and what we saw was about what we expected when you are bringing in new strategies and schemes," Ehler said. "The girls have spent a lot of time in extra practice of learning the X's and O's and have worked hard and been very receptive to our new style.
"The girls are coming together, and as the year goes on I think we will be better."

Mitchell will open the season at Sidney in the Western Conference Tournament on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., and Ehler said he expects the Red Raiders to give his Class C1 Tigers a big challenge.

"They have the best Class B team in the Panhandle and are very experienced," he said.

Ehler said the Tigers' goal will be to play well and improve in every game, while the results fall where they may.

"This is a hard way to open the season, but we have a lot to game and nothing to lose," he said. "We'll see if we can't come out of there with a win or two."

Mitchell's semifinal game Friday will be against another Class B team, Alliance or Omaha Skutt. The Tigers will play at 3:30 p.m. either way. If they defeat Sidney, the Tigers will play at WNCC; a loss puts Mitchell in consolation action at Scottsbluff High.


Gering's Santanna Mitchell preps for a shot amid defensive action from Crawford opponents during Saturday's scrimmage in Mitchell. No official scoring was kept, as the games were a pre-season warm up for the teams participating.

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