New coach, same aggressive style for WHS girls basketball team

Nov. 23—WORTHINGTON — History has shown that Worthington High School girl athletes love to play basketball. And they love to play it aggressively.

They've got an eye on history and their part to play in it.

That bodes well for first-year WHS head girls basketball coach Jessica Hogan, who for many years has led the Trojans volleyball program. Now the veteran coach is stepping into the school's basketball history, and she's anxious to see what the 2022-23 version can do.

Once again, the players say they're ready.

And they probably won't be shy about it. Six-foot senior Tarren Spartz, one of three experienced inside players at WHS, likes the fast-paced, aggressive game that Hogan promises to continue.

"It makes the game go smooth and fun. No one likes slow basketball," said Spartz. "I think we all have that inner aggressiveness in us. Ever since WBBA (the Worthington Girls Basketball Association, which Spartz has participated in since fourth grade), we have learned to play aggressive."

After compiling a 16-11 record last season under veteran skipper Eric Lindner, the Trojan girls open the 2022-23 season on Nov. 26 at Minnesota West Community and Technical College against Sibley-Ocheyedan. Hogan is preparing the team for another highly competitive campaign.

"I think we'll have a good inside-outside balance," she said at a recent practice. "Most of our experience will be in the post. We're going to play up-tempo. We're still going to push the ball when we can."

The the Trojans' speed game is blunted by opposing defenses, Hogan says they work the half-court smartly, if all goes well. They'll make good decisions with the basketball and make good shots, and they won't try to force things.

Worthington will be without graduated stars Olivia Hayenga (an outstanding scorer) and Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor (an outstanding point guard), who are both now playing at Minnesota West. That means that in practice, Hogan is still deciding on who the primary ball handler will be.

"We'll be OK. They're all improving a lot since Day One," she reassured fans.

Spartz and another 6-0 senior, Ellie Weg, return to patrol the paint. Spartz is versatile, able also to score from the outside, handle the ball, and drive. Weg is an outstanding rebounder and hustles well to get into proper position while scoring her share of points under the hoop as well.

Both are tenacious. They don't mind contact.

Another veteran post player, Madison Beckmann, is a 6-1 junior who can play inside or on the perimeter. She shoots, rebounds, and has some guard skills.

Other players who will contribute include 5-5 junior Pham Gora, her twin sister Newyouman Gora, 5-9 senior Aisha Zeidi, 5-7 junior Regan Schaefer, senior Karissa Bickett, and sophomores Grace Barber and Jayden Spartz.

The Gora sisters bring quickness and ball-handling skills to the team, and they can shoot. Zeidi does several of the "little things" well, according to Hogan, who is aiming high.

"I've always admired how hard Worthington girls basketball players have played, and how tough they are on the court. Those are traditions we want to continue. And we will," she said.

That means team defense will be stressed. For Hogan, it means that the girls will be able to guard their assigned opponent, and they will help their teammates whenever possible. Rebounding will be a key emphasis.

"You can't fast break if you don't rebound," Hogan said.

"I'm intense. I coach like I want to be on the court playing," she continued.

No, Hogan can't suit up, like she did when she was a high schooler herself. But she can lead them.

"Feels real good. I love sharing my passion and knowledge with all of these girls. They really like the game," Hogan said.