WYOMING - In the same boat as everyone else across the state and the country, the Midland girls’ basketball team hoped COVID wouldn’t put a major damper on their 2020-21 campaign causing stoppages of play, or at worst, cancelling the entire season.

      “I really didn’t know what to expect with the ever-changing days we live in pertaining to COVID,” said Eagle girls basketball coach Jason Soper. “We missed out on summer camps, fall league and other opportunities, but recognize everyone was in the same situation. I was however very pleased we avoided any COVID pauses due to our own undoing.”

      Midland completed their 2020-21 journey with a 4-15 overall record which included a 3-8 mark against Tri-Rivers Conference East division opponents while playing some of their best basketball down the stretch.

      “We really grew together as a team and everyone genuinely cared for each other and kept each other’s best interests at heart,” Soper said. “This team not only had great chemistry, but they improved in almost statistical category. They were up in shooting percentage and down in turnovers and closed the gap on our point differential.

      “I was also very proud of the team earning the distinguished academic award with a team GPA of 3.71.”

      On the court the Eagles closed the regular season posting a stunning 56-47 triumph over Lisbon Feb. 9, who finished second in the East division standings.

      “Offensively, we really grew,” Soper said. “This year we introduced new offensive sets and changed things up a fair amount. As time passed, we grew more comfortable and really began to see the opportunities it offered. Execution efficiency really grew as the season progressed.”

      That season was keyed by a pair of extremely talented seniors in Ari Hacke and Ella Rupp, the lone two seniors on the roster, which is both good news and bad news for the Eagles.

      Good news in that only two seniors graduated. Bad news in that it was Hacke and Rupp, the top two players in the program.

      “Ari and Ella have been a mainstay in our program for all four years,” Soper said. “They both are four-year varsity letter winners, two-year team captains and led by example in everything they did. Ella finished her career with 289 points, 230 rebounds, 68 assists and 95 steals in 63 games played. She was a second-team All-Conference selection this year and showed great courage battling back from a serious knee injury her junior year. Ella was our emotional leader and always provided a spark on and off the court.

      “Her love for the game and her teammates will always be what I remember her most by.”

      Rupp led the Eagles scoring 7.7 points per game this past season and was extremely active in Midland’s pressure defense.

      Hacke was second on the team scoring 7.3 points per game while her 7.5 rebounds was a team-best number.

      “Ari finished her career with 384 points, 448 rebounds, 165 assists and 99 steals in 81 varsity games,” Soper said. “She was a second-team All-Conference player her junior year and first-team All-Conference her senior year. Ari was our vocal leader both on and off the court. She led by example giving 110-percent in everything she did. Ari’s has a unique combination of having compassion for her teammates while garnering their respect to hold them to a high standard and able to be critical when necessary.

      “In my opinion, that’s a very hard trait to convey, but she loves competing and welcomed any challenge that came her way.”

      Soper returns a team with plenty of experience to make another run in the Tri-Rivers Conference East division in 2021-22 bringing back Allison Paulsen, Amaya Terrell, Bailie Uppena, Jaden Gatts, Elizabeth Soper, Alivia Smith, Hannah Fishwild, Gracie Franzen and Karley Schaefer.

      Terrell leads all returners scoring 6.8 points per game and was the team’s top 3-point shooter drilling 31 of them on the season, and at a 28-percent clip. Paulsen tallied 6.3 points per game and is the top returning rebounder pulling down 5.9 a night.

      “As far as next year goes, we have many important pieces coming back,” Soper said. “Our to-be seniors (Paulsen, Soper and Uppena) will have big shoes to fill, but are very capable of carrying the torch. Our sophomores (Terrell, Gatts, Smith, Fishwild, Franzen and Schaefer) really grew this year and I expect that same growth to continue into their junior season. Our freshmen will need to continue to develop, but I am very optimistic they will take the necessary steps to contribute some at the varsity level.

      “Lastly, our in-coming freshmen have a nice mix of guards and posts and with decent numbers I expect competition in practices to continue to rise vying for varsity playing time, which will be at a premium.”

      Soper also mentioned summer work as another key to future success for the program.

      “Attending camps and continuing development will be paramount in our continued development offensively,” he said. “If that goes to plan, I expect a continued rise in wins and everything that goes along with that growth.”

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