NEGAUNEE — With high school football officially over in the Upper Peninsula, we now look ahead to basketball where the girls will start to take the court next week. One of those teams is Negaunee who will have to deal with a big loss, but a major gain.
The Miners girls are fresh off a deep run in the playoffs last year, winning their second straight district title. And they did it without their star player Aleda Johnson.
“It was very important to the future of our program and for their confidence. It really lit the fire coming into this summer. We had a really good summer, and even into the fall, girls were just knowing what we had in front of us and the expectations we’re going to have,” said head coach Brandon Sager.
“Seeing that with Aleda out, we depended a lot on her obviously because she was a great player. And then when she went out, seeing some of the girls step up that normally didn’t do as much, they proved to themselves that they can do it,” senior guard Clara Johnson said.
Turnover is a big part of high school athletics, but this year, Negaunee is getting a major transfer. Natalie Bartle will be playing her senior year for the Miners and has already committed to playing basketball at Colorado–Messa.
“I’m really happy where I am. I’m excited to see what happens. The team understands basketball really well. I feel like I fit in pretty well with them and it wasn’t really an issue. Sometimes when you go to a new team, its hard to welcome a new person and they welcomed me really well and I’m happy for that,” said Bartle.
“A lot of people say she’s a newcomer coming in. But she’s actually played with all these seniors in travel basketball from third grade on. She moved away during the seventh grade season. She’s had a tremendous career out in Tucson, Arizona, playing on some high-level AAU teams. She’s just one of those basketball junkies that has a basketball IQ through the roof,” Sager said.
“She jumped into our team and it kind of felt like she’s always been there. She gels really well with all of the girls. It’s always easier when there’s history there. As far as basketball goes, she jumped right in and it really feels like she’s always been there,” said Johnson.
Negaunee finished last season 17–6, losing to Calumet in the regional semi–finals. But this year’s team is more experienced and ready to win a third straight district title and just their first U.P. title since 1998. The Lady Miners will open their season on the road next Tuesday at Gladstone.