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Lakeville North coach Andy Berkvam gave instructions as his daughter Cassie, right, and teammate Taylor Stewart, center, listened during a practice in the last week of November. Photo by Joel Koyama • jkoyama@startribune.com

Sometimes, it's a tough for Cassie Berkvam to bite her tongue. Whether she is getting pulled from a game or being criticized for a mistake in practice, she has to repeatedly remind herself: He's my coach. He's my coach. He's my coach ...

"It's so annoying," Cassie said with a laugh. "We get in our little battles from time to time, and I have to just stop and go, 'OK, OK, he's my coach, not just my dad. I can't just talk back to him.'"

Her dad is Andy Berkvam, longtime coach of Lakeville North's perennial powerhouse girls' basketball team. A senior guard, Cassie is the third of Berkvam's daughters to play for him in the past four years.

But aside from the occasional inner dialogue from Cassie, no one on the team pays much attention to it.

"He treats us all like his daughters," senior co-captain Simone Kolander said. "He knows us all really well, and Cassie's one of our best friends. We're always at their house, and he's like a dad to us.

"He doesn't treat people any differently; he's really fair. He just wants to put the best team on the court."

The team that Berkvam will put on the court this season will be another good one, albeit a little different from the past few years.

Senior guard Taylor Stewart is committed to play Division I basketball at Illinois State next season, and Kolander, a 6-1 forward, who committed to play soccer for the Gophers, has college-level hoops talent. But this season's team will be defined by its depth, Berkvam said.

"We have some young kids who are still feeling it out right now," the coach said, "but we have a lot of kids who can play. We don't drop off much at all when we go to our bench."

The Panthers have only four seniors -- all starters -- and will give plenty of playing time to some sophomores and eighth-grade guard Temi Carda.

Stewart, who first played on Berkvam's varsity as an eighth-grader five seasons ago, doesn't foresee any issues with bringing the younger girls along.

"There's no cliques on the team; we're really all sisters," she said. "And that plays into how we play with each other. We all know where we'll be on the floor, and we play really well with each other."

Just off the side of the east court at Hopkins High School's Lindbergh Center, Berkvam and his team posed for a picture Saturday. It was moments after all 12 girls on his team mobbed him with hugs after the final buzzer of a 57-45 victory over Centennial, the 400th win of Berkvam's career.

It was a nice moment, Berkvam said afterward, but he and his team are focused on a different photo op at the end of the season, one involving some hardware.

"We want to make it to state again, and then we'll see what happens," Stewart said.

And while Cassie does her best not to talk back to her dad on the court, she said she'd definitely like to get in the last word this season.

"I think we have a lot of potential to do it," she said of a tournament run. " It's been fun playing for my dad, and it'd be great to go out in a great way."

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