Munson’s progression key to Kenmare’s success

When she was younger, Kenmare’s Lexie Munson attended open gym to observe the upperclassmen on the girls basketball team, taking mental notes of the work ethic she needed to put forth if she wanted to become a leader in the coming years.

Now, as a senior, Munson is the centerpiece of a rebuilding Honkers team that won just five games last season and was eliminated in the District 12 tournament.

“Last year was frustrating, but we keep our heads up and try to improve,” Munson said. “Those younger girls are stepping up and filling the roles.”

In eight games this season, Kenmare has nearly matched its win total from last season with a 4-4 record. Munson’s shown her versatility on the court, averaging 21.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game. She also shoots 36 percent from the field and 68 percent from the free-throw line.

“She does everything for us,” first-year Kenmare basketball coach Brock Zietz said. “She does everything 100 percent. She carries a lot of the workload with what we have and she does a great job.”

Munson joined the basketball team as a freshman and has seen her share of ups and downs during her four years of varsity competition. In her first two years, Kenmare won both the district and region tournaments, finishing fourth in 2009 and fifth in 2010 at the eight-team state tournament.

After reaching state in her first two seasons, Munson and the Honkers didn’t qualify for regionals last year. Despite the disappointing season, Munson made the transition to the team’s go-to option.

“When I was younger, I was more of a role player,” Munson said. “I was there to fill any role they asked me to fill. The last couple years I’ve been a leader on the floor.”

Munson leads the team with 153 points this season. The Honkers’ second leading scorer – senior Shelby Hass – has 69 points. Munson also leads Kenmare in defensive rebounds (37), assists (23) and steals (20).

“If we didn’t have her, a lot of our offense wouldn’t take place,” Zietz said. “A lot of those games we win is because of her. Anytime we get in a tight spot, she demands the ball and takes the game over.”

Her ability to take over a game was evident in Kenmare’s first victory of the season – a 61-56 decision over Dunseith. Munson scored a season-high 33 points in the Honkers’ home opener.

Munson credits her teammates for her success over the years, saying trust makes all the difference.

“It’s trusting my teammates,” Munson said. “If you don’t trust your teammates it’s not going to go well for you. We’re all close friends and have lots of memories.”

Munson’s trust stems from her four years on the volleyball court as a setter, where her primary responsibility was setting up her teammates at the net. Last year alone, Munson compiled 629 assists for the Honkers and was an all-state selection. She amassed 3,637 career assists and helped Kenmare win three region tournaments and a state championship as a freshman, which she said is her favorite memory.

“I’ve been coaching volleyball for 25 years and there’s very few kids that learn as quickly as she did,” Kenmare volleyball coach Tim Wallstrum said. “You tell her something and she learns it right away. When she was a freshman, I’d pull her aside and tell her what to do in certain situations. She learned so quickly I never had to tell her again.”

Wallstrum referred to Munson as the “quarterback” of the court, which also describes her play as a basketball player. As the team’s unquestioned leader, Munson has her sights set on improvement for the Honkers in her final season.

“I expect to do better than we did last year,” she said. “We have a chance of going to region this year.”