The North Branch fifth grade girls basketball team has something the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder and other dominant NBA teams do not: an undefeated record.
The young Vikings team, comprised of mostly fifth graders with a few younger girls mixed in, is 16-0 after four tournaments this year.
Coach Scott Hadrava, who has been coaching this group of girls for three years, said during practice Feb. 7 at North Branch Area Middle School his team has a drive to win.
“We’re proud of these kids,” he said. “They’re very dedicated.”
He noted his team practices twice a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Practice starts at 6:30 p.m., but many of the players show up about 20 minutes prior to that to work on fundamentals and shooting.
After practice is over—if the gym is still available—some of the players continue to get extra reps in on the hardwood.
“I think we’re all really trying to do our best, during practice, especially,” player Cianna Selbitschka said. “We all want to get first, so we all try our hardest during practice and in the games.”
Focusing on fundamentals
Scott said his team uses the “1 through 5” system—having players assume specific positions such as point guard and center—but everyone works on the same fundamentals, and he moves players around on a regular basis so the kids get experience in different aspects of the game.
He said about half the time at his team’s practices is spent on dribbling and shooting drills.
“They’re focusing on a lot of fundamentals at this age,” he said.
He added, “We challenge these girls. We make them dribble two basketballs and do things varsity and college girls are doing.”
An exciting season
Scott said it’s been an exciting season thus far for his team.
He noted most of the time they’re “winning big,” but there have been a few close games.
“Our first tournament was a double overtime championship game, and our last tournament we won in overtime,” he said.
He credits the Vikings’ success to the players’ drive and capacity to understand the game.
“They’re very eager to learn,” he said.
A little speed doesn’t hurt, either.
“We try to fast break as much as possible,” he said. “We put a lot of pressure on the other teams.”
Selbitschka and players Megan Bunes, Sylvia Linkert and Haley Hadrava—Scott’s daughter—all agreed with their coach’s assertion about how exciting the season has been.
“Sixteen and 0,” Linkert exclaimed.
Haley and Selbitschka—whose father Mike also helps coach the team—said it’s also fun to have their dads involved.
Haley noted they’re always giving players pointers, like to “use the backboard more.”
Scott said he’s had fun coaching this team.
“You can’t ask for a better group of kids,” he said. “You really can’t.”