Breanna Lee
Breanna Lee
Nine letter winners return to lead the 2013-14 Spring Grove girls basketball team. The Lions lost three senior starters to graduation last year, including the team's two leading scorers. However, five gals from the primary eight-player rotation are back, including one All-SEC player and one conference Honorable Mention.

Nicki Ellingson (5-foot-10 senior center) was all-conference last season. She was also co-Most Valuable Player in team voting as well as the recipient of the Hustle Award. Ellingson averaged 8.9 rpg (rebounds per game) and was the third-leading scorer at 10.8 ppg (points per game).

Senior forward Aly Folz (5-8) averaged 3.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg. Sure-handed, she was one of only three Lions with more assists than turnovers.

Samantha Bratland (6-0 junior forward) came off bench to receive Honorable Mention on the all-conference team. She led the team in field goal accuracy (49.5%), was the third-leading rebounder (5.3 rpg) and fourth-leading scorer (9.1 ppg). With her height Bratland remains a threat inside but has proven herself capable of hitting from the perimeter.

Julianna Sand (5-5 junior guard) played in all 30 games, coming off bench to lead varsity regulars in free throw accuracy (65.7%). She was the fifth leading scorer (6.8 ppg), and was voted the Lions' Most Improved Player.

Lauren Arneson (5-5 junior guard) was voted SG's Rookie of the Year for '12-13. She played in 27 of 30 games last winter and is expected to step up to the starting point guard position this season.

Other letter winners who should see plenty of playing time include guards Elizabeth Johnson, Jordan Anderson and Kelsey Hermanson, along with center Kailee Bjerke.

Johnson (5-4 junior), played in 26 of 30 varsity games last season. Anderson (5-6 sophomore) appeared in 22 contests, while Hermanson (5-8 freshman) saw action 23 times as an eighth-grader. Bjerke (6-0 junior) played in an equal number of games.

Senior forward Amanda Hahn (5-9) is also back from last year's subsection roster.

A new face on the varsity lineup is sophomore Bree Murphy who returns to Spring Grove after living for a time in Wisconsin.

Freshmen Breanna Lee, Grace Edgington and Desirae Brainard move up from the junior high roster.

SG begins the year riding an impressive 72 conference-game winning streak (going back four years).

The Lions won a fourth-straight SEC East championship last year, going 18-0 in conference play, 23-7 overall. Spring Grove won a third-straight 1A East Sub-section championship (their fourth in the last five years) before bowing out to 1A West champ Bethlehem Academy. The Cardinals went on to take third place in the Class A state tourney.

Head coach Russell Larson returns for a ninth season at the helm. "We are hoping with our experienced varsity and successful returning JV from last year that we can contend for the conference and sub-section," he said. Challenges for the Lions include unproven ball handling.

Larson said conference favorites this year include Lyle/Pacelli and Mabel-Canton, while Goodhue represents a team to watch out for in the section. "We hope to contend with these teams," he added.

With depth both inside and on the perimeter, SG may at times use a 3-guard, 2-post alignment and at other times a 2-guard, 3-post set.

The girls open at home versus Hope Lutheran on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. - the first half of a varsity girls/boys double header.

Lions the Last 5 Years

SG girls basketball

2013* 23-7 (18-0 SEC, 1st East)

2012*^ 28-5 (18-0 SEC, 1st East)

2011* 28-2 (18-0 SEC, 1st East)

2010 24-5 (18-0 SEC, 1st East)

2009* 18-9 (13-3 SEC, 2nd tie)

total 121-28 (85-3 SEC)

* sub-section champions

^section champions, 4th at state