A-C girls’ basketball off to a good start

Published 2:15pm Thursday, January 3, 2013

By Heather Rule

ALDEN — The Alden-Conger High School girls’ basketball team returned to the court this season with the exact same starting lineup as the previous one. That experience is really starting to show.

The team jumped to a 7-1 record (5-0 conference) and is looking to be well on its way to improving upon the 10-15 overall record from last season (2-8 conference).

One of the keys to their game is the aggressive style of defense they play, according to head coach Jenny Hovendick, in her second year leading the Knights.

“I would say we’ve really done a good job showing up and playing well defensively,” Hovendick said. “Everyone’s doing their job and everyone’s helping each other.”

The goal for this defensive team is to hold opponents to 40 points or less during the course of a game, something they’ve done three times this season.

But fundamentals are another key element. They spend at least 60 percent of practices working on the basics like passing, shooting and defensive drills, according to Hovendick. Though it can get a little mundane, the coach said she tries to mix in some fun things as well.

“Now that they’re seeing the results, it’s not much of a drag for them,” Hovendick said.

When Hovendick took over the program as head coach, she spent a lot of time working on shooting forms with her players. That’s something else that is starting to pay off for the team, she said.

Senior Taylor Martin has become a consistent scorer, shooting 50 percent right now and averaging 15 points per game.

Junior Brittany Waters is another player who is reaching her stride and has “been a really bright spot for us offensively,” Hovendick said. She was more of a spot-shooter last year, but now she’s scoring on the inside and getting to the free-throw line. The last few games for her have produced scoring numbers in the double-digits.

Hovendick also mentioned senior Ariel Keller as a player who holds the team together.

“She’s the glue player on the team,” Hovendick said. “She’s not necessarily the one who’s scoring all the points, but she leads us in both assists and steals.”

The only loss, with a 44-34 score, for the Knights came in early December at Blooming Prairie. The game was a struggle for Alden-Conger, although it did take a lead into the locker room at halftime. They struggled to guard and struggled to score, Hovendick said.

The girls don’t have to worry about playing to empty gyms either. Not only the students and staff in the school, but the communities of Alden and Conger really get behind their sports teams.

It doesnt seem to matter whether they’re winning, losing or traveling on the road, fans follow them around, Hovendick said.

“We always have a real good fan following,” Hovendick said. “The community is always behind our team. It doesn’t seem to be real dependent on how the team is doing.”

Even when the girls traveled to Janesville for a holiday tournament recently, the stands were filled with Alden-Conger fans. Having that great support is the benefit of being in a small community, Hovendick said.

“Everyone gets behind you,” Hovendick said. “It’s been really fun this season.”

The girls are also well-rounded student athletes by doing things right in the classroom and participating in lots of other activities within the school and community.

“I think the one thing that I take a lot of pride in, is this is a group of girls that you really want to cheer for,” Hovendick said.

The stands are always full for athletics and other school events, and that’s not something Alden-Conger Principal Brian Shanks takes credit for but instead shines the light on the community.

“They made the decision that they are going to support the school,” Shanks said. “Now we have a team that is doing very well. The city’s just kind of rallied around them.”

Coming up, the Knights have a busy January in store with lots of games on the schedule. The challenge Hovendick sees for her team might be to keep the energy level up. They’ll face some tough teams in St. Clair and United South Central, which are winnable contests if the Knights bring their “A” game, Hovendick said.

The showdown with Martin County West Jan. 15 could line up to be a battle for first place in the Valley Conference. One of the goals for the Knights is to compete for a conference championship this year.

“So far this season, we’ve put ourselves in position to do that as long as we keep up our level of play,” Hovendick said.