White Bear Lake Bears 65 Stillwater Ponies 38
White Bear and Stillwater are Suburban East rivals who are superficially a bit similar: Both have small senior classes, and are rebuilding. Stillwater was 2-8 and White Bear Lake was 3-9 on January 1. Both are getting younger and younger as the year goes by.
But that’s about as far as you can stretch it, because the trend lines otherwise are not at all similar. The Bears are building from strength, with 4 straight state tournament appearances, including a runner-up finish in 2010, and 101 wins in 4 years. Their seniors include 6-foot posts Danni Renner and Sam Jones, who give the Bears an advantage inside most nights in the Suburban East. The Ponies, meanwhile, had 2 winning seasons and 58 wins the past 4 years. Their seniors are role players at best. And, in January, Stillwater has gone 2-8, White Bear 7-2.
And the trend continued at Stillwater Friday night, as White Bear won easily 65-38, jumping out to a 12-0 lead as junior Jordyn Foley and sophomore Rachel Lauer each scored twice. The Ponies turned it over on their 1st 3 possessions, already trailing 8-0 at 16:15 when coach Gerald Coury burned his 1st timeout. There would be another turnover before freshman Rilee Day scored Stillwater’s 1st bucket. By halftime the Bears had their biggest lead at 35-19 as Jones scored her 3rd and 4th buckets of the half inside of 1 minute.
The seniors, Renner and Jones, combined for 15 points (11 for Jones, 9 in the 1st half), 7 boards, 3 assists, a steal and a block, and mostly due to their efforts White Bear won the battle of the boards 35-28, and out-scored the Ponies 23-3 on 2nd chance points. Stillwater had nobody who could play with the Bears’ posts in the paint, and when Renner or Jones got a defender on their back side, their teammates would find them for a quick 2 or 2 + 1.
But the real difference between these 2 teams is their youth. But, wait, I already said they were similar in that respect!? Well, both are getting younger, as the kids are getting more and more playing time. But the fact is that the Bears’ kids have made them better now, while Stillwater’s are an effort to build for the future.
The best of the kids are the Bears’ Lauer, a 5-10 sophomore forward, and Alison Hinck, a 5-6 freshman point guard. The Bears’ turnaround dates quite precisely to coach Jeremy Post’s discovery of these 2 on his bench, and their elevation to starting status. Lauer contributed 10 points with 4 rebounds and a steal Friday night, while Hinck actually did not have a great outing. She finished with just 2 points on 2 FT but added 4 boards and 2 assists.
But while Hinck and Lauer are the Bears’ future stars, the cupboard is loaded with kids, well, if you consider juniors to be kids. Next year’s starting lineup will probably include Brianna Karg, 6-0 freshman; Lauer and Hinck and Foley; plus sophomore guard Niki Daul. But if a little more size is desired, there’s 5-9 juniors Beth Lastovich and Avery Potthoff. And sophomores Katie Zoborowski and Carline Sass add depth, though not size, at the guard spot.
Meanwhile, Stillwater’s kids include the point guard Day, who led the Ponies with 10 points, plus starting sophomore Larissa Colvin, who added 6. But the star of the future may be 5-10 freshman wing Madisen Schmitt, who scored 4 points in limited minutes, but whose length gives her a higher upside than the other kids. Junior post Paige Becker will also return, and Stillwater will be much improved next year.
Still White Bear’s kids are a year-and-a-half further along for their age. For Stillwater, the future is 2015. For White Bear, the future may turn out to be now. QRF right now has them 3rd in Section 4AAAA, but they’ve already beaten #2 Woodbury on the road. I expect to see the Bears in the section final against St. Paul Central, where they’ll be the underdog. But Renner and Jones won't give much to Central’s bigs. The question is whether the freshman, Hinck, is ready for a match up with Central’s Betsy McDonald.
Co-Trench Players: Anyway, returning to Friday night, Sam Jones came off the bench to lead all scorers with 11 points and added an assist and a steal, but the Bears’ starting post, Danni Renner, was just as good even scoring just 4 points. But she led the Bears with 5 boards and added 2 assists and a block.