Thursday, February 9, 2012

Immanuel Featured in Eau Claire Leader-Telegram Inside Girls Hoops

From Justin Harings featured article, Immanuel Taking Step Forward, in the weekly Inside Girls Hoops section of today's Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:
By Justin Harings Leader-Telegram staff 
Forgive Immanuel Lutheran coach Jim Sydow if he doesn't buy that ancient saying about the relationship between defense and championships.
He's speaking from experience.
"Basically, we've had a lot of good defensive teams," Sydow said. "Girls have hustled and really competed well, but we've just struggled to score and handle the ball. This group of girls can do both those things."
The results are in the record.
Now, thanks to a supporting cast that has stepped up around its standout, the Lancers (10-4, 5-3) are on track for their first plus-.500 finish since the conference championship season of 2005-06. They're even receiving eight votes in the most recent Division 5 state poll by The Associated Press.
"You need some people who can score, and you need some people who can handle the ball," Sydow said. "If you've got three ball-handlers and three scorers, then you've got something you can work with. And that's what we've got now."
It helps to have Abbie Hein.
Hein, a 5-foot-9 junior guard from Fridley, Minn., is a well-traveled AAU player and a scholarship-level college prospect. She's got a consistent handle with range to match. At 18.6 points per game, she's among the leading scorers in the area.
"I couldn't even go to coaches clinics to get stuff I have to do," Sydow said. "She's the focal point of every team we play - and legitimately so. She's good. She's really good."
But, really, that's nothing new. The difference? Her teammates are taking off the pressure.
Hannah Tiefel, a 5-foot-10 senior on the wing who can handle the ball, adds 11.3 points per game. Abby Sydow, another one familiar with travel ball, typically runs the offense at the point.
Johanna Ohlmann is the team's best defender. Rachel Schaser, a sophomore starter with strength from her swimming background, works in the post. Emily Hein, Abbie's younger sister, and Lauren Lisak see big minutes off the bench.
All of them have helped keep the Lancers moving toward their first winning record since finishing 14-6 six seasons ago, when Sydow was still an assistant coach on the bench.
"If Abbie has to handle the ball all the time, she can't pass to herself," he said. "It takes a team to make this thing work."
The Lancers, who are 7-1 since returning from their traditional month-plus break from game action, start a challenging stretch by hosting Large Dairyland leader Eleva-Strum tonight. They trail Alma/Pepin and Independence in the Small Dairyland standings, and they'll see both again before beginning the Division 5 playoffs.
"We've got tough games from here on out," Sydow said. "We've got to continue to improve and continue to play on a consistent basis if we're going to sustain that."