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Girls basketball: Experienced Mariners optimistic for season

Silver Bay senior Jenny Walewski brings the ball up the court during a game last season against Carlton. (News-Chronicle file photo by Jamey Malcomb)

While the past few years have seen Silver Bay struggle to reach even five or six wins, the 2017 squad will have more experience and returning talent than any Mariner team in recent memory.

Senior forward Jocelyn Russell in one of five seniors returning to the team and will lead Silver Bay's offensive attack as she has the past three seasons. Russell set a Silver Bay record with 52 points against Duluth Denfeld last season and regularly recorded a double-double.

The other seniors on the team include point guard Jenny Walewski, shooting guard Mita Frericks and forward Natalie Nelson.

"We really are going to rely on our seniors and building their confidence," coach Dan Johnson said. "People are going to notice Jocelyn. Teams are going to start double teaming her and we need to make those adjustments."

Another asset returning to the Mariner team this season will be junior forward Alexxa DeQuevedo. DeQuevedo developed into a solid contributor for Silver Bay two years ago as a freshman, but a compression fracture to her back during the 2016 volleyball season caused her to miss all of her sophomore campaign.

Like Russell, DeQuevedo is a strong athlete who can keep defenders on their toes and provides a secondary scoring option when Russell is facing a double team.

"People are going to notice Jocelyn," Johnson said. "Teams are going to start double teaming her and we need to make those adjustments. With Alexxa healthy this year, that is huge. Now, even if they stop Jocelyn, we've got someone to take over."

Last season, the Mariners won six games, the most for the team in nearly a decade. Johnson said the team has a full 26-game schedule this season; he believes 10 to 12 wins are possible if the team can improve its shooting percentage. During the 2016-17 season, Silver Bay averaged less than 25 percent shooting from the field. Johnson said the team will need to improve to 35 or even 40 percent if it hopes to reach its double-digit win goal.

"Games that we did well were when we shot okay," Johnson said. "That comes from confidence, from off-season work. Even on the first day of practice I'm seeing that some of the shots are better and they are looking more confident."

Johnson also has another goal in mind for the Mariners this year: He hopes to make it to at least the second round of the Section 7A playoffs and get the team a game at Romano Gym at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Johnson's seniors have been playing together since they were in junior high. He believes that they have the experience, chemistry and discipline to take Silver Bay further into the section tournament than it's been in many years.

"We are excited about this season," he said. "This is my first time with five seniors ready to be the leaders of the team. It comes down to confidence. It comes down to focus. It comes down to self-discipline and having that team goal of making it to that second round of the playoffs."

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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