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Victoria's Huser a playmaker -- in more ways than one

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

During Tuesday's game against Plainville, Victoria High School junior Kristin Huser drew up a play on the white board in the final seconds. Huser noticed the Cardinals' defense before a timeout and decided Victoria could execute a baseball pass.

During the break, Huser had senior Ashley Dome as the inbounder. Dome passed the ball to Huser, who received a screen from junior Brooke Schmidt. Huser threw a baseball pass to junior Audra Nowak. She caught the ball behind the Plainville defense, drew a foul and made a free throw for a 47-46 Victoria victory.

"The Huser girl is a darn good ballplayer," Plainville coach Ron Wolf said.

The play diagram was nothing new for Huser, one of the area's top players. Huser has drawn up plays since she was young. Growing up, she had a book where she would create plays.

"I use other plays to make different plays," Huser said. "I don't just come up with my own plays. I critique other plays, I guess you could say."

Her favorite place for new and different plays is on the court during games.

"Our team, we just have that connection," Huser said. "You just make plays. Sometimes, you don't follow a set play. Actually, one play that we have is not to have set plays, and we just do our own thing. That's how we make our plays and get each other open. It's just through eye contact and playing with each other."

Huser and Nowak, longtime best friends, have led the Knights to an 8-7 record this winter. Victoria had struggled in close games and fell out of the state rankings after a 16-7 season and a state tournament appearance in Class 1A Division II last year. However, the Knights have won three in a row, including a 61-44 win against rival Macksville on Friday.

"We're kind of starting to pick it up," Huser said.

"It's just a lot closer competition than last year," Nowak added.

Victoria has moved up to Class 1A Division I this season and is in the same sub-state as St. John, the defending Class 1A Division I runner-up and ranked No. 3 in the classification. Last year, St. John defeated Victoria 58-27 in the regular season.

"In sub-state, we can put up a very good game against St. John," Nowak said. "That's a big goal for us."

Huser and Nowak, the top two scorers last season, have taken on bigger roles this year.

"We have been playing since fourth grade together, and then almost every summer since," Huser said. "So basketball season and then MAYB in the summer. We have been playing for a long time and we know each other so well."

Huser averages 16.2 points, 4.3 steals and four assists a contest, all team-bests. She also averages 4.1 rebounds a game.

"I feel better making a pass in to get a shot than shooting the ball or making the basket," Huser said. "That's weird, but I would rather have more assists than points."

Against Plainville, Huser sometimes played on the wing instead of playing point guard and handling the ball every time down the floor.

"There is times that we feel that she is doing way too much," coach Anne Dinkel said. "We want to relieve a little bit of that pressure. Yes, she is a good player, we want her to do those things, but sometimes it's nice, too, to build the confidence in the other girls, knowing you can do this, too, and putting her on the wing."

Nowak averages 12 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals.

"She is kind of that quiet leader out on the floor, kind of the piece that keeps us all together, and we got to get those inside touches and get it to her and she can do damage in there," Dinkel said.

During games, Huser's basketball savvy has often led to key plays.

"There were times out there that she was pointing to girls, kind of telling them where she needed to be," Dinkel said. "The girls have to recognize that. Defense is always there. She comes and steps up and gets those steals for us, and she is very good at seeing the floor. She has stepped up every year."

Shortly before the baseball pass, Plainville forward Kim Junkmeier handled the ball in the backcourt, a rare occurrence. Huser guarded Junkmeier, who tried to pass the ball over Huser's head. Instead, Junkmeier threw the ball right to Huser. Then, she took it in for a layup.

"I pulled off, knowing that she was going to pass it, that maybe I would have a chance of deflecting it," Huser said. "It worked."