Girls basketball wraps up another progressive season with end of the year banquet

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Monday night inside the St. James High School cafeteria, the St. James girls basketball program finalized their season with an awards banquet and paid homage to the senior class who led the way in the recent revitalization of St. James girls basketball.

The Saints finished the season at 8-9, with a 4-4 record in the Big South Conference and 2-3 section record. St. James was defeated by Montevideo in the first round of the subsection tournament, 72-41. 

Among their eight wins were victories over BOLD and Windom, a pair of teams that made runs to subsection finals. Chloe Mickelson broke the school record for threes in a career, finishing with 144. Mickelson broke the record against Jackson County Central, a 65-48 win for the Saints early in the season.

The Saints also faced a two-week COVID layoff, and after returning to play, finished the year 3-6, losing six out of the final seven contests.

"Once we came back from quarantine, I think we lost our shooting a little," said head coach Steve Witcraft. "We tried to get it back at times, but our shooting at the end of the year was really tough."

The banquet marked the end of the careers for five Saints, who have seen the girl's basketball program go from a winless season four years ago, to knocking on the door of a .500 record.

Among the seniors, including Mickelson's 711 career points, were Ellie Becker, Kelsey Grunewald, Maddie Brey, and Torri Mohwinkel.

Becker and Mohwinkel were named co-defensive MVPs. Witcraft noted each of their defensive attention to detail, and Becker's willingness to take charges. Becker and Mowhinkel ranked second and third, respectively, on the Saints in steals. Becker finishes her Saints career tied for 18th in program history in steals with 126.

Becker also finds herself in the top-15 in career assists at 141, while Mohwinkel ranks 17th with 135.

Brey returned to the hardwood after taking two years off and provided frontcourt depth for the Saints. Grunewald was also a frontcourt piece for St. James and chipped in 4.5 ppg and 4.2 rpg.

"We had a lot of seniors this year, but I think we have a lot of juniors, sophomores, and an eighth-grader who are ready to step up and keep the momentum going," said Witcraft. 

Among the core of returning players are starters Jaelyn Haler and Taylor Sodeman. Haler earned team MVP honors over Sodeman, scoring 9.7 ppg and hauling in 9.5 rebounds per contest. The sophomore Sodeman led the Saints in scoring at 13.7 ppg.

Haler and Sodeman each ranked second on the Saints in assists with 28.

Addie Bowers took home the Most Improved Player award, tallying 8.1 points per game off the bench, good for third on the team. Bowers scored a Saints season-high 27 points in a 51-43 win over Blue Earth Area.  

Bowers will likely slide into a starting role as well. Eighth-grader Madelyn Malmgren has seen varsity minutes in the past two years and could take a step forward as a freshman in 2021.

The Saints hope to continue their progression and get over the .500 mark for the first time since '06-'07. Witcraft noted the Saints need to improve on the offensive end in order to take the next step. 

Other awards:

Letterwinners: Ellie Becker, Addie Bowers, Maddie Brey, Kelsey Grunewald, Jaelyn Haler, Madelyn Malmgren, Chloe Mickelson, Sailor Mohlenbrock, Torri Mohwinkel, Taylor Sodeman, Lunden Swanson, Samantha Tetzloff

Spotlight on Scholarship: Ellie Becker Addie Bowers, Maddie Brey, Jaelyn Haler, Chloe Mickelson, Sailor Mohlenbrock, Torri Mohwinkel, Taylor Sodeman, Lunden Swanson, Samantha Tetzloff