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2012-13 Winter Preview: 'Several key players' return to East Ridge girls basketball team this winter

East Ridge junior Jamie Swanson, a 5-foot-10-inch forward, averaged 10 points and 6.5 rebounds last season as a sophomore. She'll be one of the Raptors' top players again this winter.

After starting last season 3-1, things looked good for the East Ridge girls basketball team last year.

However, the Raptors finished with an 8-19 record and had two losing streaks of five games or more. In the Suburban East Conference, only Hastings finished below East Ridge in the standings.

This season for East Ridge, it's all about improvement.

Despite losing longtime contributors Katie Hagberg, Allison Berry and Kelsey Basten to graduation last spring, East Ridge head coach Glen Wurm will have experience on his squad, something that is important in high school athletics.

"We look forward to continued improvement with several key players returning," Wurm, in his fourth year with the team, said. "Playing with great togetherness and a willingness to sacrifice for each other will be the key for our team this season."

The Raptors roster is filled by five seniors (Courtney Keefe, Brianna Walker, Ellen Wigins, Hannah Pignato, Megan Amend), nine juniors (Kelsey Ihns, Kara Curtis, Sarah Griffith, Jamie Swanson, Rachel Brenner, McKenna Karas, Brianna Schmitt, Hannah Bloomquist, Grace Burns), three sophomores (Amanda Robinson, Laruen Larson, Allison Robinson) and freshman Christina Pickett.

Swanson, a 5-foot-10-inch junior forward, averaged 10 points and 6.5 rebounds last season as a sophomore. Without Hagberg and Berry, she'll be relied upon even more this winter.

"Jamie is a terrific outside shooter with great range," Wurm said.

Walker, a 5-foot-9-inch senior forward, will also help replace what Berry did on the wings. Walker averaged 7 points and 6.5 rebounds as a junior.

"Brianna has great first step quickness, which puts a lot of pressure on defenses," Wurm said.

In the backcourt, Pignato, Amanda Robinson and Keefe will carry much of the load at the two guard spots. The three players combined for 11 points per game in 2011-12.

Other players expected to be big contributors this year include: Wiggins, a returning post/forward, along with Allison Robinson, Amend, Ihns, Karas, Bloomquist and Griffith.

The SEC is typically a very competitive conference. Last season, five teams finished with a winning record with Roseville finishing on top with a 24-4 overall record.

The good news for the Raptors is that while there are good teams in the conference, there were five other teams, including East Ridge with a losing record, so there is a chance for them to turn things around.

Games to make note of are against Woodbury (Dec. 21 and Feb. 1), Hastings (Jan. 4 and Feb. 8) and Mahtomedi (Feb. 9). East Ridge defeated all of those teams last season.

"We have some terrific talent throughout the SEC, which means we will have great challenges game after game," Wurm said.

In the postseason, the section teams to beat will likely be Park and Eastview, who battled for last year's section title.

"Eastview and Park proved to be the best teams last year, but there is great talent throughout the section, which means anybody can beat anybody on any given night," Wurm said.

The Raptors open the season on Thursday, Nov. 27 as they play host to Burnsville at East Ridge High School.