Area Female Athlete: PR-B's Semmler setting a different kind of tone

Alyssa Semmler doesn't fit the mold of most high school athletes. She knows it. She's accepted it. She's even embraced it and it's helped her become a key player for the Pine River-Backus Tigers girls basketball team. Her coach, Randy Schwegel, w...

Alyssa Semmler


Alyssa Semmler doesn't fit the mold of most high school athletes.

She knows it. She's accepted it. She's even embraced it and it's helped her become a key player for the Pine River-Backus Tigers girls basketball team.

Her coach, Randy Schwegel, who has been trying to figure out Semmler for five seasons, agrees.

"She's just come miles from where she was last year at this time," Schwegel said. "She's grown up so much and taken on so much responsibility for herself to get things done and get to where she needs to be and do the things that are expected of her. She's so much happier to be around."


To understand Semmler, one must first understand her role on the 21-4 Tigers team. At least her role as she sees it.

"I decided that a game is a game," Semmler said. "In previous years, I tried to devote all of my focus to a game. That's not my personality. I've never been the type of person to have a ritual, like listening to the same music. I like to be all over. If you ask Schwegel, I'm constantly dancing or lip syncing. I know when it's game time and I know when I need to be serious, but at the same time, if I can crack a smile on one of the girls' faces it's a lot easier for them to play. They don't get nervous."

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Alyssa Semmler

  • Year: Senior
  • School: Pine River-Backus
  • Sport: Basketball
  • Position: Post
  • Highlights: Finished with 33 points and 16 rebounds against Red Lake

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And so it was Schwegel's job to harness the "goofiness" that is Semmler and use it to the team's advantage.

During a stretch of seven games in 10 days, the 6-foot senior post was a consistent presence on the court.

She tallied eight points, 15 rebounds, three assists and a steal in the Tigers 73-61 victory over Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Feb. 13. Then came Red Lake Feb. 15 and Semmler exploded for 33 points, 16 rebounds, two blocked shots, four steals and an assist.


"When we played them up at Red Lake we found a weakness in the post and so we thought we would use that method again and it worked out great," Semmler said.

Schwegel had a different recollection of what happened before the game.

"She was mad at me because in our first Walker game we moved her to the wing," Schwegel said. "We moved her to the outside and she wasn't happy with me. So before Red Lake, I told her, 'You go inside and make something happen then.' And she did. She was on a mission that day. For teams we're going to face to see that, now they can't forget about her nor can they forget about the girls on the outside. That combination is hopefully going to make us pretty tough down the stretch.

"She was the best player on the floor that day."

Semmler added 14 points, six rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block in a 63-28 rematch with Walker, Monday, Feb. 18, and then tallied 16 points, six rebounds, six assists, three blocks and a steal in limited action against Isle, which PR-B defeated 88-13 Tuesday, Feb. 19.

"She always has been athletic," Schwegel said. "She's one of the most gifted kids I've had. She's tall. She can run. She can jump. She has all the tools you want to see in a kid. Before she was just kind of all over the place. Now she's much more focused.

"She's the goofiest kid. She comes to the weight room and she's dancing around to the music and stuff. You need a kid like that. She's not so dead serious about everything that's going on. She has fun with it. She makes everybody smile with how goofy she is."

And to Semmler, that's the key to PR-B's success. The Tigers are 11-0 in the Northwoods Conference, 11-1 against Section 5-1A opponents and own a 15-game winning streak one game away from the playoffs.


"We are a really tight group," Semmler said. "We've played a lot of sports together. We've gone to each other's houses. We've gone to movies together. We kind of are like a family. I know everyone says that, but no matter what, we will always still be there for each other.

"And that's really important because when we start playing tight or when things are really stressful we go into a panic mode. But if we can have the girls smiling and laughing then they're more relaxed. Their shots go in. It's key to have that close relationship because I know how to make Rylie (Hirschey) laugh and she knows how to make me laugh. It's just easier to know what to say to help your teammates succeed if you really know them."

Semmler is averaging 11.7 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.7 steals a game and the best part about it said Schwegel, "She's doing it with a smile."


Other notable performances

Basketball: Rylie Hirschey, Pine River-Backus, finished with 25 points against Laporte, 20 against Nevis, 22 against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and 22 against Red Lake.

Bailey Wynn, Pine River-Backus, finished with 19 points, seven steals and five assists against Laporte, 30 points against Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and 20 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Red Lake.

Olivia Lane, Pequot Lakes, finished with 30 points against St. Cloud Cathedral.


Courtney Strohmeier, Pierz, finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots against Paynesville.

Kaija Davis, Aitkin, finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds against Mora and 19 points against Pequot Lakes.

Jenna Dvorak, Staples-Motley, finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds against Osakis.

Olivia Peterson, Pillager, finished with 20 points against Staples-Motley.

Tori Decent, Crosby-Ironton, finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds against Staples-Motley.

Gymnastics: Maddie Dehn, Little Falls, earned All-Granite-Ridge Conference honors with a seventh-place finish in the all-around at the conference meet.

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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