Brittany Kelley knew immediately what needed to be done.
When the Pine River-Backus Tigers senior forward learned her teammate and friend, Tatum Sheley, would miss playing time because of an injury, she went to work.
Kelley hit the gym. She worked on her shot and on her post moves.
She hit the weight room and got stronger. But more important she worked on her teammates. She made sure they stayed confident their goal was still in reach.
Kelley’s work has paid off. The three-year varsity player scored 28 points in the Tigers’ season-opening 81-22 victory over the Cass Lake-Bena Panthers Nov. 29.
“She shot really poorly in the first half,” said Tigers head coach Randy Schwegel. “She didn’t start really well, but in the second half she stepped it up. The thing she brings us, which is going to give some teams problems, is she can go outside. If they have a little girl guarding her she can take her back inside and post her. She’s pretty handy around the basket. She came on late last year and started scoring well. She had a good summer and picked up her game.”
Kelley scored 15 points in the Tigers 83-8 blowout of Laporte Dec. 8 to help the Tigers to a 2-0 start.
Last season, she earned All-Northwoods Conference honors as she finished with 294 points (5.4 per game), 152 rebounds (5.4) 66 assists, 60 steals and 52 blocked shots. She shot 40 percent from the field, 28 percent from 3-point and 55 percent from the line.
“I wrote all the girls a letter this year and told them what I expected from them and for her I told her I wanted her to pick up her scoring and rebounding,” said Schwegel. “She’s already a pretty good defender because she’s so long. She is tall and has a long reach. But I expected her to be one of our top rebounders and to pick up her scoring.”
Kelley’s versatility and quickness for a 6-foot forward and her abilty to handle the ball makes her a matchup nightmare for opponents.
“I think my strongest asset for the team is if the team we’re playing puts a small girl on me I can post her up,” said Kelley. “If they want to guard me with a big girl, I can take the ball to the basket on her. I’m kind of all over the place. It just depends on the team we’re playing. Sometimes I’ll be the main guard against certain teams. Other times I’ll be the main post down low.”
As a sophomore Kelley averaged 2.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 1.4 steals a game. She added 17 blocked shots her sophomore season and her shot blocking has been a boost to the Tigers defense.
“We have some tall girls in the paint that are pretty good at blocking shots,” said Schwegel. “If an offensive player slips by our guards I feel pretty good having Kelley and Autumn (Ackerman) back there who can block shots. Brittany isn’t tremendously quick, but she’s decent. She does have those long arms.”
Kelley’s added strength and years of experience have made an ideal leader and has made the loss of Sheley tolerable.
“Our goals are still the same as they have always been,” said Kelley. “We want to make it a long way in the playoffs. We want to take it all the way to state this year. That’s our biggest goal. We’d also like to win the conference, but our main goal is state.”
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Emily Miron, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 20 points and five assists against Sauk Centre and 21 points and 10 rebounds against Sebeka.
Teresa Moenkedick, Verndale, finished with 23 points against Browerville.
Jessica Kreitz, Pequot Lakes, finished with 17 points and eight rebounds against Pierz.
Bridget Bednar, Pierz, finished with 18 rebounds and eight points against Little Falls.
Kayla Miller, Pequot Lakes, finished with 22 points against Bemidji.
Caitlin Volkmann, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 22 points against Sebeka.