She's no longer the unknown sophomore.
Despite the extra attention opposing teams are giving Mindy Howard on defense, the Pequot Lakes Patriots junior is still scoring points.
Howard scored 22 points to lead the Patriots to a 58-52 victory over Eveleth-Gilbert Dec. 7.
On Tuesday, Howard again led the Patriots. This time the junior scored 23 points in a 64-55 Mid-State Conference win against Wadena-Deer Creek.
School: Pequot Lakes
Key stat: Scored 22 points against Eveleth-Gilbert
Those two victories, including a season-opening, conference win over Staples-Motley in which Howard scored 14 points, have Pequot 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference.
"We have a lot of talent this year and we all worked hard this offseason," said Howard, a three-year varsity player. "We all played AAU together so we should go pretty far in sections."
Pequot head coach Bob Nelson expected Howard to continue to have a strong offensive presence. He said she is shooting better and has gotten quicker. He said he's been impressed by all parts of her game so far this season.
"She has to be able to step up and score for us," said Nelson. "I've talked to her a lot about teams zeroing in on her. Everyone knows she's our leading scorer so they are throwing their best defender at her. She has to work much harder to get her shots. She has been doing that so far."
Last season, Howard finished with 397 points (15.9 per game). She added 124 rebounds, 98 assists, 100 steals and eight blocked shots. She shot 41.6 percent from the field. Those numbers earned her a place on the Dispatch All-Area team.
Howard said she worked on her dribbling, rebounding and defense this offseason to become more of a complete player.
"She's been driving to the basket better," said Nelson. "That's gotten her to the foul line more, but she also passes the ball well. She's a good team player. I think when people are really aware of her that leaves her other teammates open for shots. She's willing to pass the ball and that helps our scoring chances."
Nelson said Pequot does have one or two offensive sets where they try to get Howard an open shot. For the most part, however, her scoring comes within the framework of the normal offense.
Howard understands that teams are focusing on her. She has confidence in her teammates to pick her up if her shooting struggles.
"When I drive it creates open shots for my teammates," she said. "The more they score that helps the team and me because then I get better looks because the defense can't concentrate on me alone."
Howard's goal is 1,000 points. She conceded that it probably won't happen until next season, but it shouldn't be too late into the season.
Other notable performances:
Basketball: Amy Fredman, Pillager, had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Sebeka.
Emily Mehr, Aitkin, had 34 points and 12 rebounds against Greenway.
Alisha Johnson, Verndale, had 12 points and 10 rebounds against Henning.
Katie Kimman, Pierz, had 15 points, nine rebounds and five steals against Braham.
Gymnastics: Teri Stein, Little Falls, won the all-around with 32.9 points against Park Rapids.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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