Since 2013, when Tim Ellefson took over as head coach, a defining characteristic of the Hutchinson girls basketball team has been its up-tempo, high-pressure style of play. The goal is to create turnovers that lead to quick baskets in transition, and in seven years that strategy has led the Tigers to a 131-64 record, four section finals and one trip to state.
But Hutchinson’s competition has caught up recently. Despite seasons with 19 and 21 wins, the Tigers haven’t played in the section final for three years. So what do they do when they need that extra push over the cliff? They turn it up to 11.
“We’re going to amp it up even more this year,” Ellefson said. “We are going to be looking to creating even more havoc on defense. More so in the half court than in the full court this year, but making it really hard on teams to run their stuff, and taking them out of what they want to do.”
This is the 2021 Tigers girls basketball team.
And it’s not just defense where Hutch is cranking up the dials. Ellefson said the offense will play a faster style of hoops as well to keep opposing defenders on their heels.
“We’re going to be very much attacking, looking to score quickly in the possession, not so much slow it down and be deliberate,” Ellefson said, adding later, “They have to love what we’re doing to be successful, and we get a lot of buy-in with that, and it’s a fun way to play. The bottom line is we want to have fun, but we’ve found we can have a lot of success doing it as well.”
Buy-in is important, but so is experience. Despite graduating three starting seniors — Emma Olberg, Mikayla Stamer and Morgan Ellis — Ellefson reported the Tigers have a great deal of returning players with varsity minutes under their belts. Leading the way are junior point guard Alyssa Stamer, senior guard Karissa Korson and sophomore post Brynn Beffert.
“Those three are probably are most experienced returners,” Ellefson said. “I look for all three to have huge seasons. They are going to be who we fall back on.”
Ellefson said senior forwards Chloe Petersen and Aubrey Brunkhorst are likely to round out Hutch’s starting five, but the team’s experience continues with its bench that includes seniors Sarah Bassler, Allison Wright and Aaliyah Flores, junior Brynn Swift and sophomore Savannah Schlueter.
“That’s kind of what we’re looking at, and we’re hoping that maybe some other sophomores or juniors might surprise us and get in there too,” Ellefson said.
Because of the late start to the season due to COVID-19, and a shortened schedule that includes just 17 games, all but three of Hutch’s contests will be conference play.
After finishing third in the Wright County Conference East standings last year, the Tigers are hoping to work their way up and challenge other contenders such as New Prague and Waconia for the top spot. They’ll also have Jordan and Mound-Westonka to think about, two new additions to the WCC East.
“We think we can be there right in the end,” Ellefson
And if the Section 2AAA playoffs are played, as they are tentatively scheduled to be, Ellefson said it will be another grueling test for the Tigers to get back to the section finals for the first time since 2017. Not only will perennial favorites such as Marshall and Waconia be waiting, but there are other up-and-comers such as Mankato West and St. Peter, the team that knocked Hutch out in the first round last year.
“We think we can beat all those teams,” Ellefson said. “Last year we beat the No. 1-ranked team in the state at the time, and we know we’re capable. You just have to put it all together and do that two or three times in a row and you might make the state tournament.”