6-foot-8 junior may be tallest player in Minnesota prep girls basketball history
The technical foul she received last week for dunking at halftime of a game against Silver Bay was a first for the 6-foot-8 Esko junior.
As, in all likelihood, the tallest player in Minnesota high school girls basketball history, Savanna Trapp is used to making news.
But the technical foul she received last week for dunking at halftime of a game against Silver Bay was a first for the 6-foot-8 Esko junior.
"(My teammates) wanted me to get my first dunk in the Silver Bay game so they told me to do a practice one," Trapp recalled. "The other team was still in the locker room so I figured it wouldn't be intimidating. So I did it, and the refs called a technical.
"The Silver Bay girls came out of the locker room and were confused why they were shooting technical foul shots. One girl said, 'Why are we shooting?' and one of my teammates told her what had happened. The girl said, 'Darn it, we missed it. Will you do it again?'"
If Trapp gets her wish, she'll soon do it in a game. After setting a state record for single-season blocked shots a year ago, Trapp has more offensive responsibilities this season as sixth-ranked Esko guns for a Class AA state tournament appearance.
The Eskomos (4-0) have won by an average of 31 points per game, beating AAA-level schools Hibbing and Grand Rapids along the way.
Trapp says she put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason to help maintain a better position in the post, where she often was pushed around in previous seasons.
"I've been working on my strengthening the past two, three years and I've gotten a lot stronger," she said.
After shooting about 60 percent from the field last season, Trapp is closer to 70 percent this year. Her blocks-per-game average, however, has dipped from seven to four.
"She's getting more patient with physical play, and will continue to get more patient," Esko coach Scott Antonutti said. "If she gets it in close, she doesn't miss much. If she does, she's in good position to get the rebound and put it back up."
Trapp is receiving high volumes of mail from Division I universities and is on the wish list of multiple Big Ten and Big 12 schools as well major colleges from California, Florida and Texas.
And she might even be taller than what she's listed at, considering she looked down at Baylor's 6-8 Brittney Griner during a recruiting visit last week at the University of Minnesota.
"I met her after the game and talked to her, and I am well over an inch taller than her," Trapp said.
The Eskomos will need to take advantage of that height advantage in order to dethrone defending state champion Braham in Section 7AA. The Bombers are led by junior Rebekah Dahlman (29 points per game in 2010-11), who is well on her way to smashing the state's scoring record for boys and girls.
"She's a scoring machine," Antonutti said of Dahlman, who could surpass 3,000 career points later this week. "There's not a lot she can't do."
The Eskomos have more scoring options than last year and an athletic lineup that includes Stephanie Bandelin, the News Tribune's All-Area Player of the Year in volleyball, Marisa Shady, Kallyn Knutson and Brooke Schramm.
"We have gotten so much better; I'm so excited for the season," Trapp said. "The girls have put in a significant amount of time in the offseason."
Trapp did likewise, spending only one week at home during the summer as she played in several Amateur Athletic Union tournaments with Twin Cities-based North Tartan. That team lost in overtime in the Nike Nationals championship game in Augusta, S.C.
Now she's focused on helping her high school team get past Braham.
"We know we can do it," she said. "We're going to beat them this year because it's our turn."
Other section contenders include International Falls (5-0), which returns four players who scored at least nine points per game: senior Hanna Heibel and juniors Jenna Vergeldt, Sophie Frederickson and Reva Renollet. The Broncos have won every game this season by at least eight points.
Senior-led Virginia (4-2) and Two Harbors are off to respectable starts, while height-challenged Eveleth-Gilbert is led by the high-scoring duo of Megan Vidas and Megan Preiner.
Duluth Marshall first-year coach Joaquim Harris has a pair of double-digit scorers returning in Camille McKee and Mary Baumgartner in the hopes of ending a 54-game losing streak in the Lake Superior Conference.
Depth has Duluth East vying for title
The 2010-11 Duluth East squad improved by seven victories from the previous year, and coach Bill Kunze is hoping for continued improvement.
"I'm feeling good about the team -- we're better than we were last year. In my six years, this is probably my second-best team," he said. "These players have been going since they were sophomores and learned how to take their lumps. I'm satisfied with our progress."
The Greyhounds (2-1) already have defeated last season's section champion, Anoka, and had second-ranked Benilde-St. Margaret's on the ropes in a 45-43 loss. East held the Red Knights, who start three Division I players 6-2 or taller, to 13 points in the second half.
Seniors Alex Freeman, East's leading scorer the last two years, Shamika Hopkins and Jamie Whitlinger are complemented by the inside presence of 6-3 junior Elena Lushine and the return of junior Becca Zwak from a knee injury.
As in recent seasons, East goes at least nine players deep in an attempt to compete with section favorites Cambridge-Isanti and Andover.
"When I played so many kids the past two seasons -- I was playing 10 to 12 players -- it's paying dividends right now," Kunze said.
Hermantown off to unbeaten start
The majority of the players who led Hermantown to the Section 7AAA final are back, including senior starters Carmen Bergstedt, Rachael Hoium, Nicole Kucza and Melissa Madison and junior supersub Katie Thun.
The Hawks are off to a 6-0 start, including an eight-point win over defending section champion Grand Rapids and a two-point win over Holy Angels Academy.
Veterans Bergstedt (13.5 ppg), Hoium (12.5), Thun (10.0) and Kucza (9.0) give the Hawks several scoring options.
"We have a group of seniors who have been waiting in the wings," coach Beth Clark said. "It certainly helps to have those girls who have experience because they received significant minutes the last two-and-a-half years. They are a very unselfish group."
Grand Rapids returns a lot of height, including 6-2 Jessa Sondergaard in the frontcourt and 5-11 Kenzie Kane in the backcourt, from a team that went 20-9. The Thunderhawks are off to a slow start, partially due to playing a tough schedule, but hope to overcome ninth-ranked Chisago Lakes and Hermantown to make a run at a fourth section title in the past five years.
Hibbing has depth but lacks experienced height, while Cloquet and Proctor are struggling to find players to carry the scoring burden. Duluth Denfeld (0-5), which was reclassified into Class AAA, is still seeking its first win for new coach Adair Ballavance.
MIB gunning for repeat bid
This season's Mountain Iron-Buhl vs. Barnum game received considerably less attention than last year's game when the duo entered with a combined 24-1 record and MIB's Charlotte Overbye was on her way to breaking the Northland's all-time girls career scoring record.
But as badly outmatched as the Rangers were in that 36-point loss, they were the better team in this year's 61-51 victory. Despite losing Overbye's 2,658 points accumulated over a five-year varsity career, the Rangers (6-0) return several key players from a team that posted a 28-4 record and took third place in its first Class A state tournament in 17 years.
"Of course we miss our two seniors from last year and Charlotte's points, but we are utilizing our team in different ways," coach Jeff Buffetta said. "We have a better post game and our guards are being more patient."
Seniors Dakotah Winans and Marissa Mason, juniors Kathy and Laura Ostman and sophomores Allie Knuti and Sarah Overbye are among the eight returnees that give MIB a good chance of repeating in 7A, even though Barnum joins the fray.
"With what happened last year, there's a new confidence in our program. To finally get to where we got last year, they have the confidence they can play," Buffetta said. "Barnum makes our section better. We know the Barnum game was an early season game, and at the end of the season they will be right there. Both teams were able to gauge themselves at this point. When we play again in January, it will be another gauge."
Barnum (3-1) moves over from 5A, where it lost to Sebeka in the 2011 section final, and returns state tournament veterans in seniors Katie Myhre, Claire and Caitlan Rodgers and junior Claudia Turner. Replacing Jessica Newman, last season's All-Area Player of the Year who joined her sister, Katrina, at Minnesota Duluth, will be a near impossible task.
"In the past we've had some really good athletes and we can get away with some goofs and mistakes," said coach Randy Myhre, winner of a Northeastern Minnesota-record 605 career games. "This year we have a really good team, but if they're going to succeed they have to work as a unit. If we do that, we can compete against most teams in Class A."
So far, Myhre says his players haven't paid enough attention to detail and have had too many lapses to be state tournament contenders.
"The girls have to understand that basketball is a team game," he said. "It's really important that our kids function as a unit defensively."
Cherry boasts several players such as Taylor Sauter, Tanner Ersbo and Macey Etter who have gone to multiple state tournaments in softball and volleyball; Cook County might have the best player in the section in senior Ashley Deschampe; senior Molli Durovec highlights Floodwood's returnees from a 24-5 team; Ely's starting lineup consists entirely of McDonalds (seniors Mariah and Megan and freshman Natalie) and Muhviches (sophomore Erin and freshman Marlee); and North Woods' all-star lineup, led by 1,000-point scorer Darby Youngstrom and senior LaShae Brooks, has obliterated five opponents this season by an average of 47.4 points per game.