With six Olympian Conference games remaining, the Manitowoc Lutheran girls basketball team is still within striking distance for a league championship.
The Lancers (10-5, 9-3 OC) are deadlocked with Brillion for second place in the conference, two games behind Reedsville.
Lutheran has won six of its last seven games and is currently on a three-game winning streak.
The success is the product of a team which has decided to focus on the fine-tuning the basics.
“We’ve won some games recently and we’re doing the little things better,” Lancers head coach David Jirikowic said. “We’ve focused a lot on eliminating turnovers and out-rebounding the other team.”
Jirikowic has seen his players grow as they have refined their skills.
“They’ve become a lot more confident, especially the girls who didn’t have a lot of varsity experience,” Jirikowic said. “Confidence is a huge thing with our team. I think they are becoming more comfortable.”
Arianna Neumeyer has led Lutheran’s offense this season, averaging 13.1 points per game. That mark puts her sixth in the OC in that category, according to WisSports.net.
Junior MacKayla Menges has also provided a spark for the Lancers, putting up 10.5 points per contest.
Lutheran will need some offensive fire power tonight as they host Reedsville in a pivotal game.
The Lancers fell to the Panthers 57-45 back on Dec. 17 and the duo of Neumeyer and Menges were held to a total of 12 points collectively.
But knocking off the returning conference champions will requiring more than just making shots,. Lutheran will have to be stout on the defensive end and that’s not an easy task when facing Reedsville.
“The hard thing about Reedsville is that you can’t focus on one player. You can take one player away and they have others that can step up and hurt you,” Jirikowic said. “We have all the respect in the world for them. “
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s game, Lutheran’s players are determined to keep making progress.
“They want to keep improving. They want to get better at the little things,” Jirikowic said. “We lost some games early where the little things were costing us games. If we do all these little things better, it’s going to add up to big things.”
Jirikowic doesn’t care to speculate on how far his team can go, but he certainly knows what they are capable of.
“How far they can go, I don’t know,” Jirikowic said. “All I know is that if they keep paying attention to details and they keep working hard, they’re going to give every team a fight because they have a big heart. As long as they keep doing that, I’ll take this team any day to compete with anybody.”
1. Roncalli (17-1, 14-0)
2. Valders (15-3, 11-3)
3. Reedsville (11-6, 8-6)
4. Two Rivers (11-7, 6-4)
1. Reedsville (15-1, 11-1)
2. Two Rivers (13-2, 9-1)
3. Man. Lutheran (10-5, 9-3)
4. Kiel (7-8, 5-4)