FREEMAN-The road to the Class B state tournament for the Freeman girls basketball team has had a number of bumps along the way.
After falling one game short in four of the previous five seasons, the Flyers finally broke through with a 46-38 win over Avon in the SoDak 16.
When No. 5 seed Freeman (19-4) trots onto the floor against No. 4 Warner (21-2) at 1:45 p.m. today at Huron Arena, it will not just be happy to be a part of the state tournament, however. The Flyers are ready to prove they belong with the best teams in the state.
"Our goal every year-and it has been since we started our program six or seven years ago-is to become the state champion," Freeman head coach Curtis Sage said. "That's our goal and it should be for every team that has decent players. Our goal the last few years has been to become state champions, so that has not changed."
Defense has been the calling card for Freeman this season and it was on full display during the SoDak 16, holding Avon standout Lauren Sees to 14 points, which was less than 10 points shy of her season average.
The Flyers aim to hold opponents to less than 50 points per game and they are 19-1 when that happens. Defense is once again the focus against Warner, which poses a new challenge with four players taller than 5-foot-10, headlined by Laurie Rogers, a 6-1 post player that averages 19.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Rogers has signed to play basketball next season at Northern State University.
Freeman is strong in the paint with Emily Miller and Hannah Eberts, but they stand 5-10 and 5-8, respectively. That means the Flyers are going to take a different approach defensively.
"We can't stop her in a one-on-one situation, so our defense is going to start in the backcourt," Sage said. "We're going to press, press, press and (Warner) knows we're going to press. ... We'll do some things differently in our half-court defense to hopefully contain Rogers.
"It's going to be the same with Sees," Sage continued. "We know we're not going to stop her, but we're going to try to not let her get to those 25-30 points."
Offensively, Freeman prefers to play through the post with Miller (12.3 points and 4.5 rebounds) and Eberts (10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds), who combined for 28 points in the SoDak 16. With Rogers roaming near the rim for Warner, perimeter play is going to be essential, according to Sage.
Josie Fuhrmann (11 points), Dayna Roth (7.8 points) and Jaimie Glanzer (5.4 points) are going to be called upon to take on more of the scoring load with a hope that outside shots will open up clean looks in the paint.
"We're still going to look to pound it in to Eberts and Miller and if they can put a move on and get a good look at the basket, we'll take our chances with that," Sage said. "If that they feel that pressure, it's a simple kick out and the philosophy of one more pass. If you think you have a good shot, there's probably someone else that has a better shot."
Warner is making its fifth trip to state since 2013, winning the consolation bracket last year and taking fourth in 2017. Freeman returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2010.