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Hanson girls fueled by athleticism and defense

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is part of a series previewing area teams ahead of the Class B state girls basketball tournament, which starts Thursday. ALEXANDRIA--Seniors, defense and athleticism make up the Hanson girls basketball team. The Beavers ...

Hanson's Heather Kayser (12) attacks the basket against Avon's KaCee Zacharias on Dec. 18 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Hanson's Heather Kayser (12) attacks the basket against Avon's KaCee Zacharias on Dec. 18 at the Corn Palace. (Matt Gade / Republic)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story is part of a series previewing area teams ahead of the Class B state girls basketball tournament, which starts Thursday.

ALEXANDRIA-Seniors, defense and athleticism make up the Hanson girls basketball team.

The Beavers (20-3) are making their first Class B state tournament appearance since 2014 and their seven seniors are a big reason why. Hanson is the No. 2 seed and will play familiar foe Avon (20-3) at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the first round of the tournament at Wachs Arena in Aberdeen.

"It's always good to get there with kids that you spend a lot of time with," Hanson coach Jim Bridge said. "... Hopefully we can go out on a great note with this group of seniors."

In addition to their seniors, the Beavers have relied on defense and athleticism this season.

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"This group has as much athletic ability as any team that I have had," said Bridge, who has been coaching at Hanson for 32 years. "What probably sets them a little bit apart is we've really been able to play a little bit better defense than we've had other years."

Six-foot-3 senior post Jada Campbell anchors the defense. She averages 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but also uses her length to cause fits for opposing teams.

"She's created a lot of opportunities for us to score just because of her physical presence that you can't match with anybody else on the court," said Bridge about Campbell, who has signed to play basketball at Presentation College.

Senior guard Heather Kayser scores 11.6 points per game, is the team's primary ball handler and brings a wealth of experience to the backcourt.

"Heather has had a great season," Bridge said. "She's been able to knock down a lot of big shots on the perimeter and then she can take it to the hoop."

Junior Megan Guericke (10.1 points per game) is the team's best perimeter shooter, said Bridge. Seniors Brooke Weber (8.3 ppg/5.5 rebounds per game) and Brooke Slaba (7.3 ppg/2.5 rpg) both contribute in a variety of ways. Slaba is a defensive stopper, while Weber is a strong rebounder, scorer, passer and defender.

Guard Tessa Zens, forward Allison Bahmuller and forward Amber Thelen are the three other seniors.

Hanson has played a tough schedule, which included 10 total teams that qualified for the Class B and Class A Round of 16. Hanson played three other Class B state tournament participants this season, with wins over Ethan (61-4) and Avon (57-51). The Beavers narrowly lost to Sully Buttes (42-40) at the Hanson Classic.

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After Thursday's rematch against Avon, Hanson will have another one against either Sully Buttes or Ethan on Friday. But Bridge is first concerned about facing the Brad Poppe-led Pirates on Thursday.

"He's a tremendous coach and he's always got his kids working hard," Bridge said. "He's got two college-type players (Lauren Sees and Cheylee Nagel) on his team and he always has role players that know what they are doing."

Related Topics: ALEXANDRIAGIRLS BASKETBALL
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