Warriors Athlete of Week: Tautges returns to lead Warriors to successful season
Olivia Tautges hit the game-winning bucket in the Section 8-4A Quarterfinals to land Athlete of the Week honors.
Brainerd Warriors head girls basketball coach Troy Nelson said it all season, but what does it mean when he says Olivia Tautges was a “mismatch.”
“She’s just that mismatch that every team has to prepare for,” Nelson said. “She’s tall enough to play the post and she can post up and finish. She’s also skilled enough to play on the perimeter and get to the rim or knock down the 3. I think it makes it really hard for other teams to know what type of defender to put on her because depending on who they put on her it changes how we used her in a game.
“Olivia is a great athlete. She’s strong. She’s athletic. She can make guard moves. She can post up. She can do all those things. She’s a very, very good athlete.”
Tautges was an asset Nelson and the Warriors missed all of last season as she suffered a knee injury that kept her out of the basketball season.
“Last year, we had a really good year,” Nelson said “We competed well and our seniors did a nice job, but we didn’t have that mismatch that we had this year. Olivia can take pressure off of other people and can find ways to score and get buckets when we really needed them. That was a big difference from last year to this year.”
Tautges was just happy to be on the court with her teammates. She wanted to make sure she could be back so instead of soccer, where she hurt her knee, Tautges joined the swimming and diving team to get in shape and get ready for basketball.
“It was awesome,” she said. “Being with my team and being able to play with them was just the best thing ever. We’re all super close and it was good to get back out there and just being able to play because that was really hard last year.”
In Brainerd’s 41-39 Section 8-4A Quarterfinal victory over Buffalo, March 3, Tautges finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one steal. It was her final three points that sealed Brainerd’s first section victory since 2010.
“I saw the clock and it kept winding down and there were only like 20 seconds left,” Tautges said. “I was kind of concerned with how we were going to score so I kind of took it upon myself to get to the basket and try and draw a foul. Or, I even thought about kicking it out and trying to get the best shot we could. They were playing us really close defensively and we didn’t know what to do. I just took it upon myself to create offense and try and make that basket.”
Said Nelson: “Buffalo was playing their match-up 2-3 zone and we were really struggling to get a good look. I think that last possession probably took two minutes. We couldn’t get any looks. We took a time out and talked about if we saw zone we were going to put Olivia at the high post and get her the ball and let her go to the rim. If they came out and played man we were going to run our motion offense and make sure we were aggressive. We came out of the timeout and they matched up with us (man), which I was pretty happy about.
“We had a couple of ball rotations and got the ball to Olivia on the wing. She saw a lane there that she had been taking advantage of throughout the game and did a great job of attacking and going to her spin move and finishing through contact for a great and-1 to win the game for us.”
In Brainerd’s 62-50 section semifinal loss March 5, Tautges secured 16 points, three rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist.
Our senior class did such a great job of fostering that culture and making sure all the kids were involved and were part of the team. I truly believe that was one of the reasons we were as successful as we were.
Tautges said sitting out a season helped her understand what she needed to work on and what her coaches and teammates needed from her. Nelson said having that opportunity to see things from a coach's perspective provided unique insight for Tautges who took advantage of what she learned. He also believes she and her fellow senior captains wanted to prove something to the section.
“This year’s team, more than any, just played with grit,” Nelson said. “Our seniors, from the summer before the ninth grade all the way through this season, have been kids who have bought into the weight room. They got stronger.
“Last time we had a home playoff game we got pushed all over the floor. That was our goal for that to never happen again. This group of seniors set the bar about getting into the weight room and getting stronger.”
For the season, Tautges finished with 351 points (13 points per game) on 44.8% shooting. She hit 34.9% from 3-point and 56.3% from the line. She added 177 rebounds (6.6 per game), 44 assists (1.6), 24 blocks (0.9), 32 steals (1.2) and 62 deflections (2.3).
“I realized, because I’m taller at 6-foot-1, that I needed to be able to get to the rim,” Tautges said. “I needed to go hard and use my strength to get to the basket. That was a real key skill set for me. Also, I needed to be able to hit the outside shots or as many different kinds of shots as I could because opponents then don't know what I’m going to do. That just makes it easier to score.
“Being able to rebound and put those back up and just being able to catch teams off guard really helps me score offensively and helped my team overall.”
The Warriors finished 21-6 and shared the Central Lakes Conference title. It’s the first conference title since 2001. Brainerd finished the season winning 11 out of its last 14 games.
“We worked really well together this year,” Tautges said. “None of us were selfish and we worked really well together in general. Using our experience to our advantage against teams that were maybe younger or weren’t as close as we were helped us. Plus, we were very gritty. We never gave up. The other teams never knew what we were going to do so that really came in handy for tough games.”
Nelson said it was the closest team he’s coached. He recalled the night before the section semifinal game.
“We had a team meal the night before the Rogers game and the girls just sat and talked for about 45 minutes after we got done eating,” Nelson said. “I kind of made a comment and they replied, ‘coach we just love each other. We love hanging out.’
“Our senior class did such a great job of fostering that culture and making sure all the kids were involved and were part of the team. I truly believe that was one of the reasons we were as successful as we were.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.