High School Girls Baskeball Focus: Chatfield riding defense to terrific start
The Chatfield girls basketball team heads into this week with a sparkling 7-1 record.
It would have been easy for the Chatfield girls basketball team to have entered this season full of wonder, maybe even with some dread mixed in.
Trouble figured to be looming, at least in terms of trying to win games. That had everything to do with all of the personnel that the Gophers lost from a team that last year finished a robust 19-9.
“We graduated three starters from that team and five of our top eight players,” Chatfield 30th-year coach Brian Baum said.
Baum is happy to report that the presumed struggles by this latest Gophers edition have not materialized. At least not yet.
Chatfield entered this week a surprisingly sturdy 7-1, including 4-0 in the Three Rivers Conference. There have been some quality wins, too, such as romping past solid Class A team Lanesboro 63-31 in its opener and beating perennial power Dover-Eyota 67-60 on Friday, Dec. 9.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Baum said. “I was hoping our team would buy into defense. I thought we could score with Kara (returning starting forward Kara Goetzinger). But the girls have really meshed well together. They’ve really bought into defense.”
Except for a 73-47 loss on Saturday, Dec. 10 to strong Iowa team Decorah-North Winneshiek, Chatfield’s defense has been excellent. While D-E managed 60 points against Chatfield, the Gophers’ other six opponents have been held to 47 or fewer.
Baum doesn’t hesitate to point out who’s leading those defensive efforts. That is Anna Kivimagi, a 5-foot-7 senior guard.
Kivimagi’s job is basically to put the clamps on the opponent’s best player, whatever position they play.
“Anna is the heart of our team,” Baum said. “She draws tough assignments. Anna is a tough athlete who never takes a play off. She has mental toughness. She doesn’t give up.”
Offensively, the Gophers are relying on balance as they keep winning. The 5-foot-10 Goetzinger averages 14 points per game (also eight rebounds), Kivimagi 13 points, 5-11 senior forward Shea Jech nine points (10 rebounds), junior guard Evelyn Goldsmith eight points (seven rebounds) and junior guard Taylor Ask seven points.
Balance like that is just how the 56-year-old Baum likes it.
There is a whole lot going on right now with the Gophers that the coach likes. It’s making them one of the toughest outs in the Three Rivers Conference.
Season-ending injuries to star guards
The injury bug has already bitten hard this season in southeastern Minnesota girls basketball.
Two girls who will play in college next season, Kasson-Mantorville’s Aby Shubert and Mayo’s Taylor Hill, have both been lost for the season with ACL tears.
Shubert tore her ACL on Thursday, Dec. 1, in a game with Goodhue. Hill had her season end two days later in a game with Lakeville South.
Shubert is one of K-M’s best all-time players. She averaged 22 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists per game last year, when she also shot a sizzling 42% from 3-point range. Shubert will play next season at Division I Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Hill is a multi-year starting guard who averaged eight points per game last year. She will play next year at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.
TOP 5 STANDOUTS
1. Miranda Palmby, Dover-Eyota
Palmby had a game for the ages on Tuesday, Dec. 13. That’s when she scored 30 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in a 77-63 win over St. Charles. On Dec. 6, the 6-foot sophomore broke the D-E school mark for rebounds in a game with 29 against Lewiston-Altura. Palmby is averaging an almost-unheard of 18 rebounds per game.
2. Kristen Watson, Hayfield
Watson had a career night on Tuesday, Dec. 13. The junior point guard buried eight 3-pointers on her way to 38 points in a win over Houston. Watson was 8-for-16 on 3’s and 14-for-26 from the field overall. She also grabbed 3 rebounds, dished out 3 assists and had 2 steals.
3. Elisabeth Gadient, Goodhue
Arguably the top point guard in southeastern Minnesota, Gadient buried Pine Island with 33 points and seven steals on Friday, Dec. 16. The 5-10 junior knocked down four 3-pointers. She also had five rebounds and four assists.
4. Kendra Harvey, Byron
Harvey is a major talent and regarded as one of the better sophomores in the state. She showed that on Wednesday, Dec. 14, when the 5-9 guard poured in 24 points in a 65-55 win over Zumbrota-Mazeppa, hitting a pair of 3-pointers along the way. Oh, and she also had 10 steals. Ten!
5. Ella Hopkins, Lourdes
That Hopkins’ big outing ( Saturday, Dec. 10) came against powerhouse Caledonia made it all the more impressive. The 6-foot-3 senior scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Lourdes’ 64-55 win. It was Caledonia’s first loss this season.
(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.
1. Goodhue (5-1)
The Wildcats have two impressive wins under their belt, 53-52 over Lourdes and 69-60 over Byron. Those represent Lourdes’ and Byron’s only losses this season. Goodhue 5-foot-10 standout junior point guard Elisabeth Gadient seems to have taken her game to a new level the last two weeks. That includes a 33-point game against Pine Island on Friday, Dec. 16. Goodhue is ranked fifth in Class AA.
2. Hayfield (5-1)
The No. 7-state ranked Vikings stubbed their toe badly on Dec. 3, losing by a bunch to No. 2 Mountain-Iron Buhl. But they’ve drilled everyone since, including romping past formidable Kingsland 71-53 on Saturday, Dec. 17. Junior stars Kristen Watson and Natalie Beaver are a heck of a “Big Two.”
3. Lourdes (4-1)
The Eagles don’t have a “Big Two,” they’ve got a “Big Three.” They are 6-3 center Ella Hopkins, 5-10 forward Vivica Bretton and point guard Emily Bowron. All three are seniors and each has been extremely productive so far. Look for the Eagles to get into the top-10 state rankings soon.
4. Byron (4-1)
Just one loss so far for the Bears and that to our top No. 1 Power-Ranked team, Goodhue (69-60). The Bears have a nice blend of talent, with shooters and strong athletes. This is looking ahead a bit, but Byron has a tough back-to-back couple of games coming up on Jan. 7 and 10, hosting powerhouses Caledonia and Lourdes, respectively.
5. Stewartville (5-2)
The Tigers’ losses are to No. 2-ranked Mountain Iron-Buhl and Byron. Their wins have been of the resounding variety, including 95-35 over Plainview-Elgin-Millville and 82-19 over Lake City. Stewartville has star power mixed with great depth.
6. Caledonia (6-1)
Caledonia was No. 1 in this Power Ranking just two weeks ago. But a 64-55 loss to Lourdes moved it down five slots. It’s easy to imagine the deep and skilled Warriors making a big jump again soon with excellent tests coming against Chatfield and Byron, and later in January against Stewartville.
7. Century (5-1)
The Panthers have lost just once, 52-34 to a Farmington team that is now 2-3 overall. Century has recently been getting a big boost from a freshman, guard Madison Ohm. Ohm has scored 9, 10 and 12 points, respectively, in Century’s last three games.
8. Mayo (5-1)
Mayo has just one loss, it also was also lopsided one to a South Suburban Conference team, Lakeville South. The Spartans have looked strong since, with four straight wins all by 20 points or more. Hannah Hanson and Kaia Kirkeby give Mayo an extremely quick and athletic backcourt.
9. Chatfield (7-1)
The Gophers’ schedule hasn’t been especially challenging. At least not yet. But that is soon to change with games against Caledonia, La Crescent-Hokah and Winona Cotter coming just into January. But not to be ignored is that balanced and tough-defending Chatfield has outscored its opponents by an average of 60-46.
10. Grand Meadow (4-0)
There haven’t been any real tests yet for Grand Meadow, beating struggling teams Lyle/Austin Pacelli, Southland, Spring Grove and Turkey Valley (Iowa) by a combined 242-92. But this is a strong SuperLarks team, led by sisters Lauren and Kendyl Queensland and powerful center Lexy Foster.