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Prep Girls Basketball Preview | Chi-Hi Cardinals

Prep Girls Basketball Preview: Senior-led Chi-Hi aiming for more wins

From the Collection: Get ready for the winter sports season with team previews series
2022-23 Chi-Hi Girls Basketball Team

Members of the Chi-Hi girls basketball team are (front row, from left): Sarah Chaffee, Olivia Bergerson, Brooklyn Sandvig, Kayla Pabich, Olivia Sanborn, Addy Seaholm and manager Jazzmynn Nicolai. Second row: coach Dan Loomis, coach Hanna Salter, coach Greta Layman, Ava Reuter, Ally Richardson, Camryn Fjelstad, Riley Terhark, Evyn Ruhe, Sami Wedemeyer, coach Becca Bestul, manager Delila Gerrish and coach Sally Linzmeier.

The last few years have been somewhat of an anomaly for the Chi-Hi girls basketball team.

The Cardinals won just one game each in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons after winning at least nine in each previous season of the 21st century. But as the program enters a new season, seventh-year coach Becca Bestul likes what she sees with a senior class eager to lead and an underclass group already showing what they can do.

Becca Bestul

Bestul

“I’ve been very happy with the last three days of practice,” Bestul said at the end of last week. “The kids have really responded well to things that we’re teaching and it is really nice to have a team that remembers – maybe not right away – what we’ve done in the past and can apply it right away and knows how I teach things and drills don’t take long to teach because they’ve done it before.”

Chi-Hi returns its top scorers from a season ago, led by senior Ava Reuter. The 5-foot-8 guard averaged 10 points per game and shot 30 percent from long range, leading the team with 24 made triples as she earned All-Big Rivers Conference honorable mention accolades.

Senior guard Brooklyn Sandvig averaged seven points per game and was an active force on defense with a team-best 60 steals and 74 deflections as the four-time Division 1 state sprint champion put her considerable athleticism to work inside the team’s pressure defense. Senior Ally Richardson averaged close to four points and four rebounds per game and played in every game and will join senior forward Camryn Fjelstad to give the team some size in the front court from the two 5-foot-10 forwards.

Junior guard Olivia Sanborn averaged nearly five points per game in just 13 varsity games as a sophomore and will take on a bigger role this season. Sarah Chaffee, Evyn Ruhe, Addy Seaholm, Kayla Pabich and Sami Wedemeyer played limited varsity action in 2021-22 and are in line for more time this year to go with newcomers Olivia Bergerson, Mikayla Halliburton and Riley Terhark.

“So we’ve got young kids that are figuring things out fast and we’ve got older kids that know what they’re doing,” Bestul said.

Chi-Hi logged a 13-10 season in 2019-20 with a senior-heavy class before those graduations combined with the initial rise of the COVID-19 pandemic dealing a blow to the Cardinal program, according to Bestul. Participation numbers dropped following that but are starting to return.

“COVID was tough,” Bestul said. “We had some stricter rules than other people and that didn’t help matters and so I feel like we not only got behind because of COVID but we were further behind other groups and we lost a lot of kids in that transition too.”

The team still is feeling the effect of that with a small junior class, but Bestul said she has been getting more optimistic about her team as the days of practice have gone on.

Chi-Hi has finished last in the Big Rivers Conference standings in the past two seasons but showed signs of improvement down the stretch of the season, beating New Richmond 57-42 and battling in other competitive losses. The conference has sent a team to the state tournament in each of the last two years and looks to be strong again.

“I think this year for us we are focused on ourselves, we’re focused on improvement,” Bestul said. “There are some very good teams in our conference and if we can take the steps we need to to make ourselves better and buy into our culture and how we teach things in practice and buy into the discipline that we’re teaching, as long we’re seeing improvement on those things then I’ll be happy.”

That improvement will revolve around a few simple goals.

The first is to score more points after averaging just shy of 38 points a season ago, thanks in part of what Bestul called a ‘ridiculous’ amount of turnovers. The second is to limit the opponent’s scoring, something that could come with a more experienced group of defenders.

Chi-Hi starts the season at home on Thursday by hosting Wausau West in a good litmus test of possible improvement versus the reigning Wisconsin Valley Conference champion Warriors. Following that game the Cardinals play at D.C. Everest (Nov. 22) and Hudson (Nov. 29) before hosting Rice Lake (Dec. 2).

Bestul wants to see the team return to its competitive ways of the past and also knows that will take improvement.

But thus far, she likes what she sees.

“We have a really solid class of seniors,” Bestul said. “They’re really good kids. They’ve bought in completely to what I’ve been teaching and when I critique something or I tell them something we need to change they do it and they respond and they respond in a very positive manor and I really am going to enjoy coaching this year.”

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