Mark Zastrow didn’t like the situation.
The Algoma girls basketball coach was watching a few of his players at Wednesday’s practice do the one thing that aggravates him the most — standing around.
It bugged the ninth-year coach because he was the one that put them in that position with an untimely drill.
“It ate at me,” Zastrow said. “I want them doing something. There’s going to be times where they’re standing, but if it’s five seconds compared to maybe two minutes it’s different. We try to limit that as much as possible.”
“I try to keep kids active, so there is not a lot of down time. … For the most part, it’s worked out all right.”
Zastrow’s practice philosophy has helped the Wolves win shares of eight straight Packerland Conference titles and advance to the WIAA Division 4 state championship game three of the past four years.
Algoma is on pace to do all right again this season.
The Wolves are off to a 3-0 start, which includes 35-point victories against Gibraltar and Brookfield Heritage Christian.
Gibraltar has four returning starters, including first-team all-Packerland Conference center Makenna Ash, but still couldn’t keep up with Algoma’s trapping defense in their first of two meetings this season.
Heritage Christian was coming off a D5 state appearance and ranked No. 3 in that division of Wissports.net’s preseason state poll but also encountered the same problem against the Wolves, who are ranked No. 2 in D4.
It’s been a good start for an Algoma squad hoping for a better finish after coming up short against Cuba City in the D4 state championship last season.
“We know that we have to keep pushing ourselves to get better and make the pace of the game faster,” said Algoma guard Karissa Koss, one of seven seniors on the team.
Algoma’s tempo in games is a direct reflection of how it practices.
It’s the reason it can seemingly replace all-conference players — like guard Meg Ryan and forward Kennedy Blahnik — year after year and not miss a beat.
“The seniors pass along what they know to us, and we’re passing that down now,” senior guard Rachel Feuerstein said. “That’s just how the program is. You have to pass something down, and the intensity, we’ve got to maintain it.”
The Wolves continue to maintain a lineup that can easily go 10 deep without seeing a drop off in play.
It features a pair of juniors – forward Anna Dier and guard Baleigh Delorit – that have been big-time contributors since early in their freshmen seasons.
The players in Algoma’s system don’t always crack the varsity lineup as underclassmen like Dier and Delorit did. But all of the young players are expected to compete at a varsity level in practice.
“We talk to them right away (as freshmen) to expect when you come in there are going to be some struggles,” Zastrow said. “You should get beat. But there are going to be times where you beat one of the best players in our area. You need to understand that and add that to your confidence level, because if you do it once, that means you can do it again.”
The one thing you won’t see Algoma do at practice is wind sprints or gassers.
“I always felt like kids don’t go out for basketball to be runners,” said Zastrow, whose team won all its conference games by at least 13 points last season. “So, anything we do, I want them to have a basketball in their hands.
“If they work in practice at the drills we do, they’ll get conditioned in those drills. We don’t need to do separate conditioning. To me that’s a waste of time.”
Time is of the utmost importance in Zastrow’s program.
“The thing I love about basketball is you can have a success and failure in a matter of a split second,” Zastrow said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to have a lot of ups and downs, so you got to make sure they’re enjoying the ups and the downs come from a situation where it is more about learning.
“It’s fun to see kids, who a year ago were a little timid or a little unsure, step out there and know what their responsibilities are. That’s a cool process.”
Packerland at a glance
Coach: Mark Zastrow, ninth year.
2013-14 record: 25-3, 14-0.
Returning letter winners: Baleigh Delorit (jr., G, 5-10), Karissa Koss (sr., G, 5-9), Jordan Demmin (sr., G, 5-6), Rachel Feuerstein (sr., G, 5-5), Linsey Pierre (sr., F, 5-9), Anna Dier (jr., F, 6-0), Andie Vandertie (sr., F, 5-8), Whitney Ebert (sr., G, 5-5), Corrina Dart (jr., G, 5-5).
Notable: Dier (10.0 ppg) was a first-team all-conference choice, while Delorit (8.3 ppg) earned second-team all-conference honors. The Wolves will play nonconference games against four FRCC teams (Green Bay Preble, Pulaski, De Pere and Bay Port).
Coach: Josh Kropuenske, fifth year.
2013-14 record: 15-7, 8-6.
Returning starters:Makenna Ash (sr., C, 6-2), Lauren Kita (jr., G, 5-6), Helen Hecht (sr., G, 5-9), Aleah Bauldry (jr., F, 5-10).
Notable: Ash finished second in the Packerland for both points (15.0) and rebounds (8.9 rpg) to earn unanimous first-team all-conference honors. Ash and Hecht are both four-year starters.
Coach: Lynn Geier, 12th year (nonconsecutive).
2013-14 record: 9-14, 8-6.
Returning letter winners: Kim Wiley (sr., G, 5-6), Ashley Loecher (sr., F, 5-10), Abby VanGoethem (jr., G/F, 5-10), Brooke Geier (so., G, 5-7), Angie Kudick (so., G, 5-5), Ellie Olsen (so., F/C, 5-9).
Notable: Geier (11.5 ppg) was the conference’s sixth-leading scorer as a freshman and received honorable mention all-conference accolades. Four of the Storm’s top six scorers return, including Wiley, Kudick and VanGoethem.
Coach: Nicki Natzke, second year.
2013-14 record: 8-18, 2-12.
Key players: Keifer Zimmerman (sr., 5-7), Taylor Natzke (so., 5-5), Maddie Sabel (sr., 5-6), Alivia Wilke (jr., 5-9), Morgan Meerstein (so., 5-8).
Notable: The Blazers have to replace Sadie Nier, a second-team all-conference choice, from their D5 regional championship team. Zimmerman (11.0 ppg) is the squad’s top returning scorer and one of two seniors.
Coach: Russ Young, 24rd year.
2013-14 record: 20-4, 12-2.
Returning letter winners: Emily Shallow (sr., G, 5-6), Kelly Stewart (jr., G, 5-7), Mykayla Moes (sr., F, 5-7), Jasey Jicha (so., G, 5-5), Alyson Nerenhausen (so., F, 5-10), Jaysa Young (so., G, 5-7).
Notable: The Blue Devils have to replace all-time leading scorer Laken James, who was the Packerland co-player of the year and led the conference in scoring and assists last season. Shallow, a second-team all-conference choice, is the only returning starter.
Coach: Dan Judas, first year.
2013-14 record: 2-18, 0-14.
Top returners: Jessica Wagner (sr., G, 5-8), Ashley Kinnard-Carstens (sr., G, 5-5), Adaline Nelson (jr., F, 5-8), Demi Ploor (so., G, 5-5), Anna Giblin (so., G, 5-6).
Notable: Judas is the team’s third coach in three years. The Pioneers have gone winless in conference play the past three years. The squad returns four starters and nine sophomores.
Coach:Brandon Wautier, fourth year.
2013-14 record: 11-12, 7-7.
Returning letter winners: Abby Baranczyk (sr., G), Kelsey Pavlik (sr., G), Bailey Hanson (jr., F), Alexa Soto (so., G), Hanna Mallien (so., G), Megan Pavlik (so., F).
Notable: The Eagles have three returning starters, including Hanson, a second-team all-conference choice. Center Meghan LaCrosse and guard Gabby Atkins are expected to start as freshmen.
Coach: Jeff Schartner, first year.
2013-14 record: 6-15, 5-9.
Key players: Rachel Miller (jr., G, 5-5), Hannah Abrahamson (jr., G, 5-8), Brittany Schroeder (sr., F, 5-5), Becca Osborne (so., F, 5-9), Charley Pollock (so., G, 5-5).
Notable: In addition to having to replace eight graduated players, the Clippers will be without junior guard Hailey Benesh, who will miss a majority of the season with an injury.