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Effort and confidence will push Redhawk girls to next level

December 3, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

2018-19 Record: 3-19 (L to AGWSR in 2nd Round of Regionals)

Head Coach: Shawn Larmore

Last season marked the beginning of Shawn Larmore and Joe Breakenridge's tenure of rebuilding the North Tama girls basketball program after a rotation of different coaches over the past several years prior. The Redhawks had depth in 2018-19, yet the quality of that depth came into question as the girls were unable to string together wins. Yet Larmore noticed improvements as the rotation became clear.

Article Photos

The 2019-20 North Tama girls basketball team. Front row left to right: LeAdyn Hatcher, Jules Breakenridge, Samantha Stokes, Aubree Monat, Jordan Rigel, Lainey Willenbring, Katelyn Kucera, Jade Rausch, Olivia Ketter, Andi Dvorak, Nana Amyuden. Back row: Rachel Robinson, Symphony McDowell, Mya Sierra, Katie Kopriva, Abby DeBoef, Rylee McLean, Kirstan Jans, Shae Ewoldt, Karly Ledvina Takoa Kopriva, Sabryna Rigel.

"The game began to slow down for the girls and they got better every night out, especially in that second half of the season," Larmore said. "The experience of playing with each other helped them improve."

While five seniors graduated from the program last year, the start of season two for Larmore has been noticeably different. The Redhawks are "much further ahead" of were in 2018 in "every facet of the game", a fact that has the coaching staff excited for this new season.

"Practices have been going great because the girls are working hard and we are excited to build on the improvements we made throughout the season last year," Larmore said. "We are so much farther ahead of where we were last year to now as far as fundamentals and running our offense. They know our expectations this time around.

Lacking depth this season, the Redhawks will look to three returning starters in Katie Kopriva (5.9 ppg, 2.1 spg), Takoa Kopriva (5.0 ppg, 24 assists on season) and Rylee McLean (6.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) for leadership, scoring and rebounding. All three have been All-Conference selections within the last two years and return the bulk of last year's scoring. North Tama notably returns the most experience from last season in the Iowa Star South.

"We will lean on those three and need them to be consistent if we want to be successful," Larmore said. "We need scoring out of them. There could be a different girl leading us each night. We played each team more competitively the second time around in our conference and that helped build confidence in these starters we want to see continue."

McLean shined late in the season last year as she grew consistent in the post, earning Second Team All-Conference honors during her sophomore year. Reflecting back on last season, McLean knows the turning point in the season came when the team started coming together in practice.

"Probably the effort showed," McLean said. "Everyone knew we could get better and it made this team better."

Four girls went out last season who had not played the previous year or in high school up until 2018. Kopriva had not touched a basketball since eighth grade, yet finished her junior season as an Honorable Mention as she led the Redhawks in three-point makes.

"We weren't really used to playing with each other because of all the new faces on the court, myself included," Kopriva said. "This time last year, we were still learning a lot and now we know our offensive and defensive formations. Now we're passing, cutting and getting open far better."

Another face that gained more playing time over last season was Abby DeBoef, who averaged 3.5 points and almost four rebounds a game for the Redhawks.

"Abby Deboef was our most improved player in our varsity rotation last year and we expect big things out of her on both ends of the court this year," Larmore said. "She really worked hard on rebounding last year and it led to a lot of easy buckets."

Those four returning lettermen will have experience in the conference, which Larmore hopes will give them confidence. The second year coach alsos expects Katelyn Kucera, Jules Breakenridge and Aubree Monat to step up and play big roles in the vacancies left from last year.

"Some young girls will have to step up and fill in roles for this team," Larmore said. "Jules, Aubrea, Mya and Symphony [McDowell] will all need to fill minutes because we are not going to be deep at the varsity level."

Leadership on the court will be in demand with five seniors from last year's team graduated and the Koprivas the only juniors with major varsity experience.

"I need to more of a leader this season after not going out the first two seasons of high school," Kopriva said. "Players like Takoa and I know we have to take on bigger roles as starters. As long as we're playing hard, we can beat anyone in our conference."

The Redhawks will play a similar schedule to last season with the main difference coming from an added game with Grand View Christian this season. As previously noted, the conference has lost many talented players to graduation, leaving a conference title up for grabs.

"I know this team is capable of a winning season if we keep putting effort into it and want to be here," McLean said. "We want to beat teams we were close to winning against like GMG and Collins-Maxwell. It's a couple of points here and there. We know what to do offensively this season much better than last year."

North Tama will host Columbus Catholic on Monday, Dec. 2 for a scrimmage before beginning their season at Valley Lutheran on Tuesday, Dec. 3.



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