The Prior Lake girls basketball team has won three of its last four games and is starting to gel under first-year coach Ethan Walker.
The Lakers earned arguably their best win of the season Jan. 16, getting 20 points from junior Kate Trachsel in a 67-63 home win over Holy Angels. The Stars are ranked No. 2 in Class 3A and been to the last four Class 3A state tournaments, winning the title in 2016, taking third in both 2017 and 2019 and finishing fifth in 2018.
Prior Lake improved to 6-9 overall with the win. The team's South Suburban Conference game with Eagan Jan. 17 was postponed due to weather, so the Lakers are back in league action Jan. 21 at home versus Eastview at 7 p.m.
Prior Lake (3-4 in the SSC) is on the road against Burnsville Jan. 24 in conference play at 7 p.m.
Walker took over the head coaching duties from Mike Gildley, who stepped down after last season after 10 years as coach, leading the team to the Section 2AAAA crown in 2018. Walker was assistant under Gidley last year.
Also gone from last year is point guard McKenna Hofschild, who is playing Division I basketball at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She left as the Lakers' all-time leading scorer with 2,488 points.
Hofschild took all the big shots for the Lakers the last four years. So there may have been a transition period for Walker's team to start this season. The Lakers lost five of their first seven games.
But Walker has seen growth.
"We just need to keep coming together and keep working hard," Walker said. "The girls never give up, and it's great. We are starting to gel and are excited for the final stretch."
Against Holy Angels, senior Haidyn Pitsch and junior Chanel Kallevig each finished with 16 points for Prior Lake, while juniors Ellie Albrecht and Abby Kuboushek both had 5 and junior Tatum Brostrom scored 4.
Pitsch has been in double figures in 14 of the Lakers' 15 games, leading the team at 18.1 points per contest. Trachsel is averaging 11.4 points (16.0 in the team's last four games).
A strong finish and Prior Lake could be at home to start the Section 2AAAA playoffs as the No. 4 seed. Tenth-ranked Chaska (11-4) is the only ranked team in the field.
Minnetonka (9-5) and Eden Prairie (9-7) also look like top-four seeds. Other teams in the field include Shakopee (9-5), Edina (6-10), Chanhassen (7-8) and Bloomington Jefferson (1-13).
The Lakers have an SSC win over Shakopee, but lost to Eden Prairie.