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Depth at the center of Winner girls' success

WINNER — With seven players who logged significant minutes in 2012-13 returning, first-year coach Winner basketball coach Larry Aaker knew his team would be deep.

But the Winner playing rotation went even deeper than Aaker originally expected, and at times this season, he has played nine, 10 and all 13 of his players in games.

Depth and balance have been important ingredients to the Warriors’ winning formula, which has netted the team 21 wins and one loss.

“I think we have been successful because of all of the girls’ ability to play together,” Aaker said. “It doesn’t matter who I sub in the game, they know their roles. The girls know I have confidence in them to get the job done. All I ask from them is to give me as much effort as possible.”

Four players boast double-digit scoring averages for Winner, including Kelsey Bertram, Cassidy Hanson, Katie Mathis and Sara Husher.

Bertram averages a team-high 15.6 points per game, Hanson averages 11.8, while Husher averages 10.6 and Mathis averages 10. Tawny Sherman also averages 7.1 for the Warriors, while Kennede Mathis averages 7.4.

“The biggest thing I can say about this team is that they don’t worry about the self recognition,” Aaker said. “They don’t worry about the individual accolades. They are willing to sacrifice the individual stuff to win a region title.”

Also logging minutes on the court for the Warriors this season have been seniors Lindsey Calhoon and Emily Richey and sophomores Bailey Volmer and Kylie Horstman.

Aaker said the tone for the team’s harmony was set by the seniors at the beginning of the season. He added the seniors made it their goal to reach the state tournament.

“We are all like one really close team,” Hanson said. “We hang out with each other all the time. We never get down on each other and we try to challenge each other on the court every day to get better. For us seniors, we have been practicing and playing together since we were in the seventh grade, so we gel perfectly.”

With the Class A state tournament starting Thursday in Spearfish, Aaker said the Warriors will continue to rely on their depth.

“If we can get deep in the tournament, our depth might help us on day three,” Aaker said. “We might have more well-rested girls than other teams that don’t play as many girls as we do.”

Winner opens tournament play at 8:45 p.m. Thursday against Mount Vernon/Plankinton.