When it comes to section playoffs, the Anoka girls basketball team has found another gear in recent years. The Tornadoes are the defending Section 7AAAA champions and have made the state tournament four times in the last six years.
An experienced squad faced some early adversity this season, though, when head coach Scott Antl resigned before regular seasons game began. With the job opening up, the search went into the beginning weeks of the regular season. Assistant coach Zack Vogelsberg was named the interim head coach, and then the head coach of the program.
Anoka finished its regular season 14-12 and 11-8 in the Northwest Suburban Conference. The second half of the season has seen a much improved team, as Anoka won four of its last five games.
“I think it’s a different expectation and a different way of doing things,” Vogelsberg said. “I think it took awhile for them to understand how I wanted it done. The second time around, ever since late January, I think they are clued into what I want and how I want it done. That’s where I think the improvement has come in the last couple of weeks.”
Brittany Bongartz, who leads the team with 17.3 points per game, sat out some games down the final stretch with a rolled ankle. She is set to return for the playoffs. Making up Bongartz’s points has allowed other players to get comfortable in a scoring role.
“The great thing about Brittany being out is Lily Schoknecht is putting up big numbers right now in Brittany’s spot,” Vogelsberg said. “It’s another option. Same thing with Elizabeth Torgerson. She’s had to step up her role along with Jersi McAlpine. All three of them have done some big things in the last couple games. It’s nice if a team focuses on Brittany, we have other people who have confidence to knock down some shots.”
The quarterfinals began March 2 with Anoka, seeded No. 3, playing No. 6 seed Coon Rapids. The semifinals and championship games are played March 4 and March 8 at North Branch High School.
It’s the time of year every team hopes to be playing its best basketball.
“I think we are playing really well,” Vogelsberg said. “We’ve been closing the gap on a lot of teams the second time around. Our offense has been really clicking. Defense has been clicking for a little bit. If we can get both going at the same time, we’ll be pretty dangerous.”