Coach optimistic about young Tiger team

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers lost all of their starters from last season’s Division 4 girls basketball state championship team to graduation but veteran head coach Heidi Georgeff is upbeat about the 2017-18 campaign.

“I am optimistic every season. We’ve developed a system that works – it’s a matter of the new players trusting us, accepting their roles and playing as a team,” said Georgeff.

The Tigers, who lost five All-Big East Conference players among seven seniors who graduated, return two letter winners in senior guard Mattie Milz and junior guard Caitlin Schmid. Milz is the Tigers’ lone senior this season. Many of the juniors saw some playing time over the past two seasons.

Georgeff, who is in her 11th season as the HG head coach, said the team’s strengths are depth, outside shooting, speed and team defense. A lack of varsity experience, and size, and rebounding are the team’s weaknesses.

The coach expects nine players in the playing rotation and she thinks they all have a contribution to make and a valuable role to play.

Georgeff pointed out the keys for her team to have success.

“By January we won’t be a new team anymore, so although I do expect some growing pains early on, I think we just have to keep focused on daily improvement,” she said.

“I think we have to be committed to putting defense first and playing as team. We have a mix of all grades on varsity, so that could prove to be a challenge.

“I think ultimately, the players need to step up and be a factor in our success. The more factors we have – the better off we’ll be.”

The coach anticipates a strong conference. The Tigers, who finished 27-1 overall last season, are the defending BEC regular-season and tournament champions. HG finished 13-0 in regular-season league play, followed by Oostburg at 12-1. HG defeated Oostburg in the BEC Tourney finals.

“I think the Big East is going to be a tough conference this season. I think there are 5-6 teams that will battle it out for the top spots,” said Georgeff.

“Ozaukee and Manitowoc Lutheran return the most players and should lead the conference in experience. I think they are the teams to beat.

“You can never count Oostburg out either. Even though they don’t return as much they have some key players back and young players ready to step up. I think Kohler and Mishicot are teams that are ready to make the move to the top of the conference after improving the last few seasons,” said the coach.

Ozaukee and Manitowoc Lutheran each return an All- BEC first-team player in senior Emma Richards and junior Emily Behnke, respectively.

Georgeff stated her top goals for the season.

“Number 1, we always want to keep getting better as the season progresses. I’d like to see us playing our best by the conference tournament and heading into the post season,” she said.

“Number 2, find our identity as a team – accept our role and support each other and put the team first.

“Lastly, I’d like to see us in the hunt for the conference title and/or tournament title, and I think it would be awesome for this young group to advance to sectionals.”

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