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Bismarck’s Naomi Rust, right, is the only returning starter for the Demons.

WILL KINCAID

Things may not always be tidy in December, but February should be interesting.

That's the way Bismarck High girls basketball coach Dallas Hinderer sizes up his inexperienced team.

Only one starter and a top reserve remain from last year's fifth-place state tournament team. Naomi Rust, a 5-11 junior post, returns along with Rylee Meier, who was the first player off the bench.

Rust earned all-region honors with a 10.8 scoring pace and an 8.6 rebounding average. Meier, a 5-7 junior guard, scored at a 5.3 pace.

The only other returning players with meaningful varsity minutes are Alek Haugen, a 5-8 senior guard, and MacKayla Feeney, a 5-6 junior guard.

Hinderer said Feeney has developed as a shooter, and Haugen is valuable because of her attitude and leadership skills.

"(Haugen) is the senior leader on our team. She loves to play defense and loves to scrap," Hinderer said.

So Hinderer will be sorting through a long list of varsity newcomers when the Demons play host to Minot in Thursday's opener.

"We're carrying 17 (varsity and JV) kids, and I think all 17 could play at some point," Hinderer said. "We've got some high flyers and so many kids capable of finding a niche on the varsity."

Even though there may be a lot of unfamiliar faces on the floor, Hinderer said there won't be much of a change in the product if everything goes according to plan. Offensively, the Demons want to work from the inside out. Defensively, they want to be the best in the region.

"In my years here we've been post-oriented ... and that's not going to change," Hinderer said. "We want our bigs to get their touches. We've got some girls who can shoot, but our offense is going to run through our posts."

Defense is where the Demons will establish their identity. "It's going to start on the defensive end. We've got to be a solid defensive team to play our best," Hinderer said. "We'll probably get some of our points, our momentum and our swagger off defense.

"We've always been near the top of the WDA on defense and we want to keep it that way," Hinderer added. "When we have a night where we struggle offensively the defense will be there."

With graduated all-state player Anna Hruby and Rust on the inside, the Demons leaned heavily toward post play last year. Hinderer said his offense should be more evenly balanced this season.

"We still have Naomi, who is a two-year starter, and now we can put enough pieces around her to balance out our offense," the coach said. "... We are a better balanced team than we have been in years past."

Rust won't be left to fend for herself on the blocks. Hinderer said Keisha Engelhardt, a 5-9 sophomore, will make her presence felt.

"She played really well on the JV. She's a great athlete ... and has the type of mentality to be a strong complement to Naomi," Hinderer said.

Rust's presence should make the Demons viable on the boards, but Hinderer said it will take a balanced effort to fill the void left by Hruby, who averaged 14.2 rebounds.

"Rebounding is a point of emphasis for us. ... We have to fill that void, and I don't know if we can do that with one person," Hinderer said.

The coach said he's curious to see what a talented sophomore class can lend to the varsity. He said the 10th-graders share one characteristic with the other varsity players. They're battlers.

"They're all competitors. We've had some pretty heated and competitive practices so far," Hinderer said. "... It's fun to watch the competitive nature of these girls."

With just three seniors, Hinderer knows it may take some time for the Demons to get their feet on the ground.

"We're going to have to work through some growing pains, but I do like the upside," he said. "... We'll definitely put a competitive team on the floor."

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