December 05, 2018 06:40 PM
(ABC 6 News) – It’s early in the girls’ high school basketball season, but arguably the best team in Southeastern Minnesota is the Stewartville Tigers—it’s because the Tigers rely on a strong defense, which is anchored by a top-notch perimeter defender.
For the Tigers, the second-ranked team in the Minnesota Class AA state rankings, sophomore guard Maia Peterson is a “team-first” player who “gets after it” on the floor.
“Last year, you could see her tenacity in shorter spurts, but now it’s just ‘go, go, go,” Stewartville head coach Ryan Liffrig said about Peterson, who ran cross country this past fall for the Tigers.
There’s no stop (for her).”
“(I just) keep thinking ‘next play, next play,’ and have a short-term memory,” Peterson added.
Last weekend, the Tigers played the defending Class AA state champion Sauk Centre Mainstreeters—a team which had entered the weekend on a 34-game winning streak.
“(Maia is) a calming force, and (against) Sauk Centre, you could see that,” Liffrig said.
Going into Saturday’s Breakdown Tip-Off Classic at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Peterson said she had some “nerves” and “jitters.”
“(Coach) Liffrig assigned me to guard one of their best scorers,” Peterson said.
Against Sauk Centre, Peterson had to guard junior Tori Peschel, a reigning All-State player from a season ago—and Peterson passed the test.
“Our defense is what bothered them, Liffrig said. “Our guards up front bothered them.”
The Tigers’ defensive presence led to a 71-67 overtime win over the Mainstreeters.
“(Peschel) had one three late, but other than that, Maia forced her into a lot of poor decisions,” Liffrig recalled. “Defensively, (Maia is) great on the ball, she’s great off the ball, she communicates.”
“It gives me a lot (of confidence) to know I could stop one of the state’s best scorers,” Peterson said. “I think it’s really exciting to have my team really proud of me for defense.”
Peterson has been playing for the Tigers’ varsity team since 8th grade. Being only a sophomore, she still has plenty of varsity basketball left in front of her, and as she grows and becomes more of a seasoned veteran, so does her confidence on the court.
“(Being confident) just gives you so many more options,” Peterson said. “You can take a few more deep breaths on the court, and it’s just more fun to play.”
The statistics don’t matter for Peterson—all she cares about is winning, which is perfectly fine with Liffrig.
“Having a girl that knows what she has to do to help win and will do anything, it’s just awesome for a team,” Liffrig said.
Peterson and the Tigers will return to the floor on Thursday. They’ll host the Cannon Falls Bombers at Stewartville.
Updated: December 05, 2018 06:40 PM
Created: December 05, 2018 05:15 PM
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