Northeast girls showcase talent, youth
Northeast has five seniors among the 15 players out for head coach Scott Post but his best players are likely to be one of his nine sophomores and his lone freshman.
The Vikings finished 11-10 last season, one year removed from a 15-win season that had Post feeling as though his team could contend for a State Tournament berth.
“We had a very talented group,” Post said. “We started the year with a significant injury to Madison Walker, who missed (just) six games but was never full strength. We also lost Emily Watson for the first six games. Those two starters being out really hurt us. We had several games missed with illness and injury by starters throughout January and we never really came together the way we thought we would.
“I was still proud because it was the fourth year in a row with double-digit wins, which had never occurred at Northeast but it was bittersweet. We had great individual accomplishments from Kelsea Choate, who finished as our all-time leading scorer with 1,000 points, and Autumn Walker, who had over 800 points and became our all-time leading rebounder with over 700. Both had more than 10 scholarship offers and Autumn signed with and is playing for Bethel College in Newton.”
Walker, a 5-foot-7 senior, and Watson, a 5’ 11” senior, are two of the Vikings’ six returning letterwinners. Walker averaged 6 points and 6 1/2 rebounds per game while Watson averaged 8.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and almost 4 blocked shots per game. Also returning are 5’ 8” senior Liz Toms, 5’ 7” senior Brittney Wyland, 5’ 7” sophomore Jaidan Davis, and 5’ 3” sophomore Haley Claffey. Lindsey Brown (5’ 5”) is the fifth returning senior.
Watson returns as Northeast’s starting center with Walker as the “4” (power forward) with Davis as her backup. Toms, Davis and Wyland are contending for the start at small forward. Claffey will take over as the point guard and 5’ 2” freshman Rachel Fox will move into the lineup as the “2” guard (wing/shooting guard).
“Claffey is very athletic and distributes the ball well,” Post says. “She has scoring ability, too. She has a lot of potential to be a great player over the next three seasons.
“Rachel will push to be a starter. She is a smart player and very quick and athletic. She won the 3-point shooting competition at our Extravaganza and then beat the boys’ champion. Rachel is the real deal and we look forward to having her in our program the next four seasons.”
Post feels guard play will be a strength for the Vikings.
“We feel we have good guards, although unproven, who can run the floor and shoot the three. It should be a fun season for us if we stay injury free and keep our focus.”
Watson’s return will also make Northeast strong in the post and Walker’s experience will be a key for the Vikes.
“Our post play should be excellent,” Post noted. “Emily is now one of the better post players around and is getting looks from multiple colleges as is Madison. Emily has a beautiful shot for a post and is so strong. She has grown and is probably about 6’ 1” now. She can run the floor and has all the tools of a big-school post.
“Madison is more of a baseline player who uses her quickness and toughness to score. She is very fast. She has fully recovered from last season’s injury and is quicker than she has ever been.”
Post is looking to make some small adjustments to fit the type of team he expects to have.
“Our main focus in practice has been on the defensive end of the floor and on installing a new offense to fit our roster,” Post says. “We have been a dribble-drive team for five years and we will still go to it. But we are also making changes and will have the ability to show various looks.”
Northeast was chosen to finish in fifth place in the Three Rivers League, which will have 12 schools now that Southeast has completed its transition to joining. St. Paul was chosen to finish on top followed by Oswego and Southeast.
“St. Paul is the top team for sure,” Post said. “They have a four-year run going and have most of their top talent returning. I would put Pleasanton and Southeast in the top three with them. Our top league teams should be very good. We believe we have the ability to get back in the top three again after going 24-3 in the league over three of our last four seasons.”
Northeast’s season will begin next week with its annual appearance in the Marmaton Valley round-robin tournament. Games will take place on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of next week.