CHEROKEE, Iowa | A few Cherokee girls basketball players transitioned to new positions when first-team Class 3A all-state guard Payton Slaughter tore her ACL in a preseason scrimmage.
Paityn Hagberg went from shooting guard in her three previous seasons to point guard and has handled the switch with efficiency. The 5-foot-5 senior, who’s averaging 15.7 points while throwing 62 assists is quick to compliment teammates on the floor if they make a key play, whether it’s an extra pass to hitting a key shot.
Hagberg, the Sioux City Journal’s Siouxland Athlete of the Week, notes that teammates all over the court are averaging an extra rebound, an extra assist, an extra steal or an extra point in Slaughter's absence. As a result, the fourth-ranked Braves have an 8-0 Lakes Conference record, four players with double-figure scoring averages and pace the state at 81.3 points per game.
“The biggest adjustment was taking care of the ball, knowing when to pass, when to look up-court, what was open and what was not,” said the 17-year-old daughter of Cherokee head coach Heath Hagberg and Lanette Peterson. “Payton has been on the bench this year and she has told me, this is where we go when this happens. I’ve stayed after practice to work on ball handling.
“I’ve had to transition from not being the person away from the ball to being the person who has more assists and looks for the open girl. I’ve tried to find the open girls and find good passes to throw. I’ve struggled at times. Teagan Slaughter has done some point guard. Dad says I’m doing way better than I thought. That’s good to hear.”
Two of Hagberg’s classmates are also playing new positions, 5-9 shooting guard Brianna Sleezer (10.1 ppg) and 5-9 forward Skylar Gerdes (6.3 ppg). Six-foot junior Kassidy Pingel (16.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is shooting 51.7 percent while Hagberg is also complimentary of 5-10 freshman JeMae Nichols (11.9 ppg, 5.1 ppg, who’s shooting a team-best 61.7 percent.
“Paityn has provided coaching leadership on the court, a calming force,” said Coach Hagberg. “She’s done a nice job making that seamless transition to make those around her better. We haven’t changed systems. We run the same offense and defense. It’s just, our kids have had to play bigger roles more than we anticipated for us to be successful.”
If anything, this move to the point has allowed Hagberg to become more efficient.
Hagberg, who celebrated her signing a letter of intent with Briar Cliff last Thursday with 19 points, five assists and three steals that night in a 97-57 win over Alta/Aurelia, is shooting a career-best 50 percent and that includes her 3-point shooting.
Hagberg has made 49 of 103 attempts in her final season for a career-best 47.6 percent. She shot 38.2 percent from beyond the arc as a junior, while averaging 16.9 points for a 21-4 team that fell to Sioux Center in the 3A state semifinals.
Incidentally, Payton Slaughter averaged 15.2 points that season while also providing 162 assists and 164 steals for a team that averaged 78.2 points. That's just a shade higher than the 75.3 from the 23-3 team of 2015-16 which lost to Pocahontas Area in the 3A state semifinals.
“I worked really hard the summer between my sophomore and junior year to develop a better shot and quicker moves around the arc,” she said. “Dad has helped me. He’s made up little workouts for me to do.”
“She understands what is a good three and what is not,” said Coach Hagberg. “Catching it when she is open isn’t always a good shot for her. She’s a gym rat. She’ll go to our gym to put up a thousand shots in a 45-minute period. She’s a kid who pays a lot of attention to form.”
That’s something veteran Briar Cliff women’s basketball coach Mike Power will appreciate when Hagberg enters his program next year. There, she plans to major in nursing.
“I wanted to stay closer to home,” said Hagberg. “I’m going into nursing. Briar Cliff has a good nursing program. It just felt right. Academics are a big thing. I like to challenge myself. Briar Cliff has an outstanding program with local hospitals to experience. It’s going to be a good thing for me.”
Keeley Petzenhauser, Spencer…. The senior scored a school-record 37 points in Saturday’s loss to Sergeant Bluff-Luton and went over 1,000 points in her career. She reached the milestone in three years.
John Henrich, Akron-Westfield…. Class 1A’s top-ranked 160-pounder and last year’s 1A state champ at that weight remained undefeated with a 5:31 fall over Carroll’s Parker Klocke in the Herb Irgens Finals.