Newberry girls move onto new year, new team without Bryant family

The Newberry High School girls varsity basketball team is regrouping for its upcoming season. In the front row from left are Emily Smart, Harley Graves, Alexis Groenhout, Felicia Raymond and Adrian Depew. Top row from left, Bailey Zellar, Abby Edwards, Alysia Cameron, Skylar Tala, Madison Grigg, Adrika Tomica and head coach Jim Dzelak. (Photo courtesy Josh Martindale)

By RYAN STIEG

Journal Sports Writer

NEWBERRY — Graduating a multiple All-Upper Peninsula Dream Team member and Class D Player of the Year can be difficult to overcome, but the Newberry girls basketball team is going to do its best this season.

Former guard Taylor Bryant is now at Lake Superior State, but that’s not the only change the Indians will deal with.

Taylor’s sister, Makenna, who was a starting guard as a freshman, and coach Fred Bryant have moved downstate to Cadillac.

New Indians head coach James Dzelak says it’s going to take some time, but thinks his team will come together as the season goes on.

“We lost two key players there, but we do return two seniors and three sophomores that are juniors this year that played on the varsity last year,” he said.

“So we’re going to look to Alexis Groenhout as a senior leader this year.

“I don’t think until about midseason we’re going to really get a good feel as to who our true leaders are on the team.

“It’s a big void to fill with Taylor gone. She was a four-year starter and a team captain for three years.

“Life without Taylor is going to take some adapting.”

Dzelak said that the Indians lack size this year, so they’ll need Groenhout to be effective in the paint on both ends of the court.

“Alexis is one of our bigs and she’ll be a team captain this year,” he said. “We’ll look for her solid inside play both on offense and defense.

“She’s about 6-foot-1, so she’s got some size to her.

“She’ll be a third-year varsity player, so it’s mostly inside play with her.”

The Indians may lack some big post players, but one positive is that there won’t be a lot of changes that they will have to go through as Dzelak is going to keep things familiar to them and focus on the basics of the game.

“I’m not going to make any major changes,” he said. “These kids have been playing that style of offense for quite a while.

“So we’re going to pretty much stick with Fred’s offense and defense and kind of continue on with what he started.

“We’re really focusing on defense right now. We’re going to have to play solid defense, because I think we’re going to struggle offensively.

“Our goals right now are defense first and strong fundamental basketball and hope that offense follows.”

It’s not going to be an easy road for Newberry, as it will continue to play in two conferences this year, the Straits Area and Eastern U.P., and Dzelak said both are going to have good teams. However, he also said his team is just going to start fresh and is looking forward to the season.

“Our thought this year is that we’re starting new,” he said. “We’re going to use a lot of the old offense and stuff, but new year, new team.

“Obviously, we’ve got goals hopefully to be competitive in every game and see what we can do in the conferences and hopefully make a run come tournament time.

“I think we’re pretty excited. We’ve got a scrimmage today against Big Bay (de Noc) and we go to Superior Central on Saturday for a scrimmage.

“I think we’ll get a really good feel as to where we’re at, but I think we’ve had a really good preseason.

“The kids are working really hard and I think we’ve got pretty high expectations, but I think everybody feels pretty good going into the season.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.