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Looking ahead: Blue Jays have big shoes to fill next season

Emily Reiten (22) will be one of the top returning guards for the Blue Jays next season. Chris Aarhus The Sun

What girl on the Jamestown High School basketball team is ready to become the player opposing teams have to game plan for?

The Blue Jays have had their share the past few years including 2014 Miss Basketall Paige Peterson.

Jamestown graduates four starters and five seniors total, including nearly all of its height.

Peterson and McKayla Orr, an all-West Region selection, will certainly be missed for their production. The other seniors will too, evident by the locker room atmosphere after the Blue Jays ended their season with a close loss to Century in a consolation game at the state tournament. Understandably, the tears were flowing.

The schedule shows the Blue Jays were pretty consistent in 2013-14. There was a road loss to Bismarck St. Mary’s that everyone remembers, though it was later avenged at home by nearly 30 points.

The only other loss Jamestown took to a team that didn’t make the state tournament was at Mandan, a squad that lost by seven points in a state-qualifier to eventual state runner-up Minot.

To add to that, the Blue Jays held a seven-point halftime lead over eventual state champion Shanley in the first round of the state tournament — it would have been 10 if not for Sarah Jacobson’s buzzer-beater. The Blue Jays came back with their best effort against Century, a four-point loss that ended their season.

Without a doubt, Jamestown was playing its best ball at the end of the season.

Next year will depend on a very smart senior class and some talented up-and-comers.

I see Meghan Orr and Emily Reiten holding down the guard spots, and they’re interchangeable, giving Jamestown a couple of solid ball-handlers. Sam Johnson was faring well until she suffered an injury during the season. Seeing her out there next season would be a great boost for the Blue Jays.

It’ll be a very guard-heavy team, and that could hurt Jamestown next season. A combination of Beka Hilgemann and Rainey Selvig could help solve problems in the paint. Offensively, however, most of the Blue Jays’ hay will be made on the perimeter and from guard penetration.

Jamestown should be able to continue its solid full-court pressure with its guards, and that could ease the burden of playing against skilled big girls inside.

Shanley should be the toast of the East Region again, and Minot will likely be at the top of the West Region, competing for the conference crown with Bismarck Century. Bismarck High, which graduates five starters, will also be in there somewhere.

The fourth spot will come down to program strength. Mandan likely has the inside edge, getting three starters back, though it’ll have to adjust to having a new coach.

Among spots 4-9, whichever team sends the best basketball players from its JV ranks to varsity will likely make the most difference in capturing the final state-tournament berth.

Expect the Blue Jays to be contenders.

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached                  at (701) 952-8462 or