Stewartville girls’ basketball continues to answer every challenge they face as the winning streak grows

(ABC 6 News) – The Stewartville Tigers entered the 2022-23 season with high expectations after coming up short in the section championship last season.

They’ve taken on all comers, facing a lot of top-ranked teams. More times than not the Tigers win, as they have a 15-2 record and are ranked #5 in Class 3A.

“We work really well as a team,” freshman center Ella Theobald said. “At practices, we are very in the game. We know we have to work hard to be a championship team and win these games.”

The Tigers are a team that’s not necessarily built around one player, but several: senior guards Haylie Strum, Keeley Steele, and Avery Spencer, junior guard Savannah Hedin, and Theobald.

“It’s definitely strength in numbers,” head coach Ryan Liffrig said. “It makes us tougher to defend when we have five girls on the floor who can score.”

While the Tigers are tough to defend, they are tough to score on as well. They play an “eye of the tiger” brand of defense.

“Coach really stresses that defense wins games,” Spencer said. “If we’re not having a hot shooting night our defense is there to pick us up. We’re able to score on fast breaks and steals which is our strong suit.”

On January 21, the Tigers beat Caledonia, another top-ranked opponent, the #13 team in Class 2A. It was Stewartville’s tenth win over a ranked opponent and their 12th consecutive victory.

Even though the wins keep growing, the team makes sure to keep its foot on the gas.

“I think we stay very calm during games, we don’t ever freak out,” Theobald said. “Even if we’re down, we just keep our heads up and that’s one of the things our coach wants us to do. It just helps us win games.”

“We’ve had it where we’ve been great in the regular season before,” Liffrig said. “We’ve had teams that maybe got to a point where ‘who’s going to beat us?’ At the end of the day, if you have a great regular season and you get bounced in the first round of the playoffs, you’re not happy with it. I think these girls know what their end goal is and we’re going to keep working toward it. We’re not a perfect basketball team yet. We still have a lot of work to do but I like where we’re at.”