Both the Holy Family Catholic boys’ (11-0 conference record) and girls’ basketball (11-1) teams are leading the way in the Minnesota River, combining for just one conference loss so far. Now in their second year in Class 3A, both teams have also seen a boost in their non-conference schedule.
"[It] has really helped us play at a consistently high level night in and night out," Holy Family athletic director Matt Thuli said.
Minnesota River teams won’t be starting up at Holy Family much longer, however; the Fire is leaving the conference after this season and is awaiting placement in another conference by the Minnesota State High School League for 2011-12.
"I don't think it's going to change anything," girls’ head coach Mike Friestleben said. "It's going to help our program overall. It's going to be very competitive for us."
The Holy Family boys have earned the ultimate prize before; they were crowned the state champions of Class 2A back in 2007. That year the Fire capped the season with a 13-game winning streak, on its way to a 25-7 overall record.
Obviously, this year’s squad is a different group of athletes, but a seasoned group of juniors and seniors has plenty of experience. Ryan Dahl, a 6-8 junior center, averages 15.3 points per game and scored a season-high 36 in an 82-74 non-conference win at Braham on Jan. 22.
Unlike the boys, the girls haven’t had a taste of the state tournament. Things were looking up last year when they tied with LeSueur-Henderson for the conference championship. But like the boys’ team they too saw their season end in the first round of the Class 3A section 6 playoffs.
Their girls’ top scorer is 6-0 junior guard Hannah Schonhardt at 13.3 points per game. Schonhardt, like Dahl for the boys, has been a varsity player since she was a freshman. Schonhardt's is still progressing health-wise after surgery over the summer. She was at about 65 percent at the start of the season, and she's now at 85 or 90 percent, Friestleben said.
"They [Schonhardt and Dahl] understand their role being leaders," Thuli said.