It was Jan. 17 and the Crosby-Ironton Rangers had fallen to 5-7 after a Mid-State Conference loss to Detroit Lakes.
Since then, Chelsey Bonsante has been on a tear and the Rangers have won three straight to even their record at 8-7.
Bonsante, a junior point guard, tallied 20 points, five steals, four assists, and two rebounds in C-I’s 58-39 win over Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Jan. 19. She followed with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal in the Rangers’ 47-24 win over Cloquet Jan. 21.
In C-I’s 38-36 win over Frazee, Bonsante hit the game-winner and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.
“She is the absolute epitome of a competitor,” said C-I head coach Randy Swanhorst. “She does whatever it takes to win. She has a tenacity. She absolutely wanted the ball in the critical situation. She wants the ball or wants to be on the line when it matters the most.
“She had a chance to get us the lead, but missed a free throw. She didn’t get down on herself. She just went down, played great defense and then ended up hitting the winning shot on our next possession. She is just fearless.”
The third-year varsity player is averaging 14.1 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. She has 38 steals, 29 assists and two blocked shots. However, she’s had to change her game to offset the absence of key players for C-I.
“It was a little hard coming into the season because we didn’t know who was going to be here or not,” said Bonsante. “So we had to build our team chemistry in that first week of the season, while other teams were building it over the summer.
“We’ve had a rough start, but we’re right on track now. I’m just trying to do what I did last year and be the point and get everyone involved.”
Swanhorst has been impressed with Bonsante’s learning curve as she’s had to learn to play with different players and a different offensive role. With the graduation of last year’s leading scorer, Jana Anderson, much of the defensive focus has been on Bonsante.
“Our expectations were very high for this young lady, but not as high as she set for herself,” Swanhorst said. “She really showed what she could do as a freshman at the varsity level and of course last year she had a lot of good players around her that drew a lot of attention. Now she’s drawing that attention. Every game the other team’s best defender is on her and in many cases they’re face-guarding her.
“She really battled through the tough times at the beginning of the year and has really bounced back and played smart, well-controlled basketball the last three games.”
Last year, Bonsante finished with 13.3 points and 3.1 rebounds a game. She added 40 steals, 52 assists and five blocked shots in 28 games. She shot 38.6 percent from the field and 61.3 percent from the line.
This year she’s hitting 31.3 percent from the field and 57.7 percent from the line, but in the last three games she was at 43.2 percent from the field and 60 percent from the line.
“I just think being a point guard, I want the ball in my hands,” Bonsante said. “I trust my team, but I trust myself to take the ball to the hole. I feel like I want this and they want this and together we can win. Together we can do anything.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Emily Miron, Wadena-Deer Creek, scored 24 points against Pequot Lakes.
Lindsay Monson, Pierz, finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds against Osakis.
Chelsey Bonsante Crosby-Ironton, scored 20 points against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
Whitney Weisz, Little Falls, scored 23 points against Princeton.
Tatum Sheley, Pine River-Backus, scored 36 points against Nevis.
Teresa Moenkedick, Verndale, scored 27 points against Menahga.
Gymnastics: Rachelle LeBlanc, Little Falls, won the bars, beam, floor and vault for an all-around score of 37.075 at the Little Falls triangular.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5856.