NOTE: My bad. Of course I discussed Rylie Polomny's contributions with coach Carlson, but neglected to include them in the initial post. They are now added in. My apologies to all.
With Minnesota’s #1 2018 and Ms. Basketball favorite Sam Haiby out with a knee injury, Moorhead’s sophomore class has moved into the spotlight a season earlier than expected. They’ve been in a supporting role, but now the fate of the 2018 Spuds is squarely in their hands.
Haiby reported some knee pain after Moorhead’s December 29 loss to #3AA-rated Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, but she was only scratched from the next game against West Fargo Sheyenne on game day. She went to the doctor the following day, January 3, where a torn meniscus was found. Some 75 percent of the meniscus was removed which, according to AD Dean Haugo, was good in the short term. It meant that she could come back later this season, which is what is expected at present. She is already off of crutches and pain-free, but she’ll be out for about a month.
So, the young Spuds had little or no notice that they would be without Haiby that first night against West Fargo Cheyenne. Sam Hulst, a 5-8 shooting guard, stepped into the starting lineup and scored a career high 17. Jalen Ennen, a 5-10 sophomore forward, also had a career night with 23 points and 10 boards. And Ayana Blythe, a 5-8 sophomore forward, added 15 to the total. Moorhead led by as many as 15 points, but lost it down the stretch 72-71.
They then traveled to the Twin Cities for a pair of games, and got clobbered by Eden Prairie 73-44 before righting the ship at Prior Lake 87-86. “We’re a finesse team, and Eden Prairie played us physical, and pounded on us,” Haugo said. “Prior Lake was more of a finesse team like us.” Hulst led the way with 15 against Eden Prairie, while 5-7 sophomore guard Rylie Polomny scored 23 against Prior Lake. Hulst added another career high of 19, while junior Brooke Carney and freshman Sam Zimmerman also scored career highs with 14 and 15 points, respectively.
Coach Jed Carlson provided a scouting report on his five starting sophomores.
• Ayana Blythe is “a small post.” She guards the post, rebounds and plays aggressively. “She’s a competitor.”
• Jalen Ennen is also “a small, skilled post in a wing’s body” who “looks to score.” She has good court vision, handles the ball against pressure defenses and creates for others. She has had 3 double-doubles this year.
• Megan Haugo is the AD’s daughter, a 5-9 wing. “She’s smart, a coach’s kid. She’s a pass-first 1, she pushes the pace and the tempo. She’s a versatile defender who guards the top scorer. She’s a good 3-point shooter and rebounds well for a guard.”
• Sam Hulst was the 6th man until Haiby was hurt and provided instant offense. Her nickname is “Buckets” and she’s a great finisher. She has a quick release and is a great FT shooter. Her defense is getting better.
• Rylie Polomny is “a small and very quick 2 or 3” on offense but guards the 1 and leads the full court pressure on defense. She can play a pressure defense for 36 minutes “and never needs to come out. She's the energizer bunny for our team.” She was huge against Prior Lake with 23 points, 8 boards and 7 assists and guarded McKenna Hofschild, who also scored 23, about 7 below her average, most of the way.
As we already noted, junior Brooke Carney and freshman Sam Zimmerman come off the bench. Both are posts. Carney is the more physical of the 2.
“The cupboard is not bare behind Sam,” coach Carlson said. “And their strength right now is their togetherness. They love to push it and to pressure people.” And they, collectivcly, are our Top Breakout Performers for the week of January 2-6.