Wildkats looking to make another trip to state

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Wildkat junior Josie Windauer goes in for a layup during the first day of practice last week. The Kats will be looking this season to improve of their third-place finish at state last season. (Jeremy Weber photo)

The Wildkats basketball team is hoping to make yet another trip to the Class A state tournament in Great Falls this season as the team brings back a mix of experience and youthful talent.

“We want to get better every day and we want to make it to the state tournament. If we can accomplish those two things, then by the end of the year, we will be playing good basketball and we will give ourselves a chance,” head coach Cary Finberg said.

The Kats will be looking to replace a pair of all-state players from last year’s roster in point guard Dani Douglas and forward Hannah Gedlaman, but Finberg says that is nothing new.

“We lost three all-state players going into last season, so I guess only losing two is a step up,” he said. “Obviously, replacing Dani and Hannah will be tough and it will take multiple kids to do that. We’ve had five straight years of all-state point guard play between Dani and my daughter, Cydney, so that has really been a position we have been strong at.”

Finberg says he expects to split time at the point between senior Ryley Kehr, all all-conference second team selection last season, and sophomore LaKia Hill.

“Ryley has a lot of experience and LaKia will have to learn a little on the go, but she is talented and I think she will do a good job for us there,” Finberg said.

Overall, the Kats will have a young roster this season, with just three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen, but make no mistake, Finberg says this squad will be ready to play.

“We are going to be young. We are going to be counting on some sophomores to give us quality minutes and those kids will have to grow up in a hurry,” Finberg said. “I think this group is going to be fun to watch. We are going to be very physical and we are going to get after our opponents. Our intensity in practice is where we want it to be and our pace is where we want it to be, so we are off to a good start so far.”

Led by 2018 all-conference honorable mention selection Trista Cowan, look for the Wildkat post players to give opponents all they can handle this season.

“We are going to be pretty physical on the post this year,” Finberg said. “Trista Cowan, Josie Windauer, Savvy Ellis, Maddie Hoerner and Hannah Schweikert, those kids know how to be physical and we are going to use that our advantage.”

Freshmen Maddie Robison and Grace Gedlaman will be looking to gain experience early in the season as the team tries to figure out its offensive identity.

“As usual, we are going to hang our hat on defense while we figure out where our players are going to fit into the offense,” Finberg said. “We will have players adjusting to new roles and some players will have to step up and shoulder more of the scoring load. We will see how that plays out. It will be a work in progress.”

The Kats open the season on the road at Stevensville Dec. 1 before taking on Butte Central and Frenchtown at the Northwest A Tip-Off Classic on the campus of the University of Montana in Missoula the following weekend.

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