Armstrong girls go down swinging

Throughout the course of the past month, the improvement shown by the Armstrong girls basketball team was noteworthy.

Even if the results say otherwise.

Unfortunately, in a game measured by a final score, that didn’t stop the season from coming to an end in the Falcons visit to Wayzata at the start of the Class 4A, Section 6 playoffs Feb. 27.

Armstrong lost to Wayzata 55-50. But that was after a 10-point halftime deficit was trimmed to three points on a 9-2 Falcon run to start the second half, and after Armstrong eventually drew even with the Trojans in the final five minutes.

But games aren’t decided until a buzzer sounds, and like so many times this year, Armstrong came up just short in the end.

“It was kind of our season in a nutshell,” said head coach Antiwan Easley. “We put ourselves in a position where we were almost there, but for whatever reason we couldn’t get over the hump. Our girls were competitive, especially in the second half of the season, but they just couldn’t get over that hump.”

That the Falcons remained feisty to the bitter end should serve as a testament to their collective belief that they were much better than the final record would indicate.

Armstrong finished the year 4-23 overall, and had losing streaks of 13 and eight games. They won back-to-back games just once.

But if you dig deeper, the improvement is noticeable. For example, the girls lost by seven to Coon Rapids in early January, but turned the second meeting into a nine-point victory Feb. 22. Early in the year, there were three losses by 30 or more. Down the stretch, Armstrong was within 10 points in nine losses.

It was far from complete. Victories could only finish the job, Easley said. But the progress was measurable.

“I credit their effort,” Easley said. “We got better because they kept working. For most of the year, the girls played really hard. That is not something we had to ever really worry about going into the games. We knew they would play and compete. But, on the flip side, we have a lot of work to do this offseason.”

There will be plenty to work with. The Falcons will return two of their three leading scorers. That includes sophomore Lyrik Williams, who had 23 points, 10 rebounds and five steals in the season ending loss in Wayzata.

Sam Zbaracki, Emily Jacobson and Kelsey Meredith will be the lone team members to graduate this spring, giving Armstrong a bevy of experience to go to work with this summer.

“We return the core of our team next year, so we’ll have a lot of girls back that played significant minutes for us this year,” said Easley. “They played a lot of important minutes this year. It is unfortunate we couldn’t send our seniors out a little better than we did this year, but we have a chance to come back next year and be pretty good.”

Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]