Herald Staff Report
Mike Halac surprised and impressed many fans in his first season as girls basketball coach at Clinton High School last year.
The River Queens finished 9-14, 5-11 in the Mississippi Athletic Conference, and won their first game in the regional tournament, shocking a North Scott team that had beaten them handily in the regular season.
Halac certainly has his work cut out in his second season, though.
Gone are 6-foot-3 first-team All-MAC center Larissa Brewer and honorable mention All-MAC player Paige Barsema — the team's top two scorers a year ago — along with the Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 8 scorers.
That doesn't leave many players with substantial court time.
"We are going to be very young this season but very physical," Halac said. "Our largest weakness is our lack of experience as an entire varsity program, and that will come with time. Each day that goes by, a little bit of that weakness is disappearing."
Five of the 10 players on Clinton's roster are freshmen, and 6-foot Libby Mumm is the lone senior on the squad.
Juniors Jordan Nelson, a 5-8 guard who averaged 4.1 points a game and Erin Wenzel, a 6-1 post player who averaged 3.0 points and 4.3 rebounds a game, are the top returning players. Shannon Shovlain, a 5-8 junior, is the only other player with varsity experience.
Sophomore Allysa Butt and freshmen Elle Tubbs, Hannah Burken, Gracie Buech, Emma Gettes and McKenzie Petersen round out the roster. Tubbs, at 6-2, is the tallest player on the squad, while the 5-11 Petersen gives the Queens four players her height or taller.
"Our strength will be our size and rebounding ability," Halac said. "We will work hard to stop teams with our up-tempo defense.
"We want to take advantage of our size on both ends of the court as much as possible. Offensively, we want to get Erin Wenzel the ball on the inside and out as much as possible and cause matchup problems for other teams. We will be a hard pressuring man-to-man defensive team."
Halac said his team's keys to success could be listed with three letters: HHM.
"Heart — we will put more effort into what we do than anyone we play," he said. "Hustle — we will be the first ones on the floor all season. Muscle — we will be a physical presence on the court, and teams will know they played us the next day."
If Halac can develop the young players and get the team to buy in and produce, he likely will surprise a few more people this winter.