The Rosemount Irish girls' basketball team opened up its season last week with two blowout home wins against non-conference opponents. Rosemount beat the Tartan Titans in their season and home opener, 64-37, on Tuesday, Nov. 27, and followed that up with a rout of the Hastings Raiders, 66-30, on Thursday, Nov. 29. The Irish and Burnsville are the only two teams in the South Suburban Conference to start the season undefeated having played more than one game. Rosemount had another home game against Park of Cottage Grove on Tuesday, and then travel to Henry Sibley for their first road contest on Friday, Dec. 7.
In both wins the Irish got off to fast starts and put their opponents in a bind early. This started against Tartan when Rosemount outscored the Titans 37-10 in the first half and were able to cruise from there.
Perhaps the most striking stat from the game is how well-balanced the Irish offense was as 11 different players scored with only two in double-figures. They were led by sophomore Helen Staley who had 14 points and freshman Tayah Leenderts added 10. Junior Taylor Janssen had nine points, sophomore Ivory Finley seven and freshman Alexa Ratzlaff six. Sophomore Abby McNeil added five points, senior Megan Larson had four and junior Molly Daly and sophomore Zoey Jacobson each had three. Freshman Anna Tauer scored two points and junior Gianna Freking one.
About a year ago, Rosemount went to Hastings with a very young and inexperienced team after losing several seniors and had a very rough outing against a good Raiders team. Fast-forward to last week and the shoe was on the other foot as this time the Irish were the much better team, still young but so much more experienced and improved, while Hastings is looking to find its identity under a new head coach.
Right from the very start, Rosemount dominated Hastings defensively, forcing turnovers and blocking and altering shots left and right. The Irish started the game on a 15-0 run, holding the Raiders scoreless for the first several minutes. Even after Hastings did get on the board, the Raiders struggled to score in the first half and Rosemount led 47-14. The second half was closer with both teams playing their reserves freely, but the Irish still won the second half and the game 66-30.
Janssen led the team in scoring with 14 points as she made shots at all three levels. Staley continued her consistent play with 13 points, junior Grace Willmott added 10 and both Ratzlaff and Finley had eight points. McNeil contributed seven points and Leenderts, Tauer and Larson all had two each. Leenderts also had a great defensive game where she was a pest for shooters.
"We really put a lot of emphasis on just getting better every day," head coach Chris Orr said about how far his team has come since the start of last season. "They had a well-played game and more importantly they played with each other and for each other. We just talked about that in the locker room, how the chemistry has been unbelievable. They want it so much for each other, it's fun to see, it's fun to watch and it's fun to play that style of basketball. We knew we had a lot of people coming back and we're still young."
One major area of improvement for the Irish is their depth.
"Well the thing is, we're missing our point guard and shooting guard from last year out with knee injuries," Orr said. "As you said, we have a lot of talent and that's great because they compete against each other every day in practice and know everything is earned. So they have to bring it every day."
Orr went on to say that he believes his team's strength is in their athleticism and versatility, and most importantly how everyone has developed over the last year. One thing he said they will continue to work on is playing with pace, playing fast but being disciplined while doing so and not rushing shots.