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Published February 02 2010

Girls basketball: Hawley guards ‘sharks’ on the court

Don’t let their giggles and blushing nonchalance fool you for a second. Erica Amann and Laure Olson are sharks. And we’re not talking ordinary sharks. Once the Hawley guards go on the defensive, they turn into swarming, hungry sharks that attack and leave you for dead while they dash the other direction for an uncontested layup.

“They smother you, and they create a lot of catastrophic turnovers that get us going on fast breaks and create quick points,” Hawley coach Bill Gottenborg said. “Most teams have that one defender that just shuts people down. “We have two.”

Amann is a junior and Olson is a sophomore. Both are averaging about 3 steals per game, but the number of deflected passes and floor burns over the season is impossible to calculate.

“We work very well together, and we’re not as good without the other girls behind us,” Olson said. “I love defense. It’s the only thing you can control out there.

“And when you make a defensive play, it gets everyone going.”

The Nuggets have had a lot of those defensive plays. Hawley is allowing just 39.2 points per game this season, which is tops in the Heart O’ Lakes Conference.

Amann and Olson are the driving force behind that success, which has the Nuggets at 16-0 and ranked fifth in Class 2A. Amann averages just 7.1 points per game, while Olson averages 6.1. The two might be the most valuable commodities on the Hawley roster, and they prove that the game is more than about scoring points.

“Defense can turn into offense, and there is nothing better than getting a steal and then making that assist on an easy shot or layup,” Amann said. “We work on defense a lot, and we want to get that ball.

“The coaches say ‘The ball is gold.’ We really believe in that.”

Hawley assistant Ben Lofgren coined that phrase – “The ball is gold.” – and it’s caught on in the Hawley gymnasium.

It means the Nuggets are supposed to value every single possession, on either side of the ball. The players have certainly bought into that this year.

“The team with the ball wins the game,” Olson said. “You need the ball to score, so you have to get it from them. It’s a mentality for us, and it’s a big part of what we’re doing here.”

The two are different types of defenders. Olson is all speed, keeping up with everybody and flying between defenders.

Amann has lightning reflexes and gets at least a finger on everything.

While both of them are gifted defenders, they’ve also done a lot of work to put themselves in position to make plays.

“They’re talented players, but with the defense it’s more their relentless effort than anything,” said Lofgren, who coaches the defense. “You take them out, and they’re upset. They think they can play the whole game.

“The two of them work well together, and they’re unselfish. They don’t care about scoring. The other kids see that and it rubs off.”

When discussing their defensive play, both Amann and Olson couldn’t stop raving about their teammates.

Both guards said they know that the other three Nuggets on the floor are going to do their jobs. That allows both Amann and Olson to take chances.

“That’s pretty great,” Amann said. “We all put in the same amount of effort, and we all take it very seriously.

“We know we couldn’t do it without them because we’re all in it together.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548