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Putting the Heart in Heart River  New coach, new strategies, same gritty Cougars 

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Heart River basketball programs.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press
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Jarred Wagner talked about expectations, competition and changes when he was introduced as the new Heart River head girls' basketball coach. He takes over a Heart River team that lost critical forwards and a sub-.500 season last year at 11-12.

Despite the new look at the helm, the Cougars are a team that ended in the region quarterfinals. While last season’s successes and failures provide the backdrop of the Heart River season, they only return with limited varsity experience and are poised to face early hurdles as they prepare for the intensity of Region 7.

What Heart River does have is an aggressive defensive acumen that will see the team stay competitive for all four quarters of a game.

“Our expectation is to compete every game,” Wagner said. “We want to be still competing at the end of the game and let the ball fall where it may.”

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Sage Froehlich executing a layup.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

The Cougar lost three senior starters, two of which were forward players who contributed to the team’s success in the paint. Returning to the squad will be two seniors and only two returning starters in juniors Sage Froelich and Abby Talkington.

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The Cougars have spent their practices working to make their defense as dominant as possible, and much of the plan rests in their two guards in Froelich and Talkington matching or surpassing last season’s cumulative 93 steals. Froelich averaged 7 points and five rebounds per game and tallied 15 three-pointers, 74 steals and 79 assists, while her partner in crime Talkington stole the rock 43 times and averaged 5.5 points.

The duo will be called upon to put points on the board, along with the rest of the team, but will be the critical element in keeping opponents out of the basket and the game tempo high.

Junior forward Jamie Buckman will be filling her older sister's shoes and defending the hoop. Buckman is returning from injury and had no varsity experience from the year before. However, she comes with speed and can shoot from three-point range when needed.

”We lost most of our paint scoring from last year, so probably replacing that is attacking the paint,” Wagner said. “When posts are in there we need to try and utilize them as much as we can. But we are more so relying on the guards attacking into the middle to create more shots.”

Junior Dalys Olson and freshman Sydney Froelich, Sage's younger sister, are the last two additions to the starting lineup. Keeping their shooter's legs fresh will be key to Wagner’s plan and will practice good rotation that will include Emma Bock, Morgan Forrest and Mackenzee Schneider and Sage Lecoe.

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Dalys Olson scanning the floor.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Wagner is very confident in the squad being a threat in Region 7 as they move into Region play, waiting for their offense to catch up to their versatile defense.

““Once shots start falling I think that will bring a lot of confidence back for the girls,” Wagner said. “We are trying to bring that intensity all game. The heart is definitely there. There is no quit in them and that's number one for us right now, that we are competing all game.”

Josiah C. Cuellar was born in San Angelo, Texas, a small rural community in the western part of the state known for its farming, ranching and beautiful Concho River. A Texas A&M San Antonio graduate specializing in multi-media reporting, Cuellar is an award winning photographer and reporter whose work focuses on community news and sports.
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