With another undefeated season in the St. Paul City Conference in the books, the Como girls basketball team earned their ninth consecutive conference championship.
The last time the Cougars lost a game to a city competitor was in 2015. As the conference champs, Como has had the honor of representing St. Paul versus the Minneapolis City Conference champion in the traditional Twin Cities Game to end the regular season.
Como has never lost a Twin Cities Title Game either. They’ll look to keep that streak alive when they cross the river on Saturday, Feb. 25 and face the to-be-determined Minneapolis champ.
The consistent dominance within the city is remarkable for several reasons. Dynastic programs often occur under one coach. The Cougars have had three different head coaches lead them to titles.
John Robinson coached the first group whose star was the city’s all-time leading scorer, Andrayah Adams. They were the first Como basketball team to ever win the conference.
Robinson switched to coach the Como boys after that historic season and was replaced by Alexis Gray-Lawson who guided the team to the team’s first state tournament appearance during Adams’ senior year.
For the three most recent conference title runs, it has been Olonda England at the helm. She brought the Cougars all the way to a third-place finish in the state tournament last year with her daughter Ronnie Porter as the team’s star point guard.
Despite the 2022 graduation of Porter and four other seniors who are all playing college basketball now, the Cougars are right back where they’ve always been.
Leading the squad this year is senior guard Shania Nichols-VanNett. One of the best pure shooters in the state, she has expanded her role this year to be the team’s facilitator and fast-break catalyst.
Nichols-VanNett is averaging 20.7 points per game, along with 5.2 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 2.8 steals. It should be noted, she frequently plays less than half a game when the Cougars are blowing out an opponent.
Coach England uses her entire bench liberally and gets all 13 varsity players quality minutes in those situations, plus several JV players.
There are only two other seniors on the roster: center Zhane Singer and forward Kayla James. Both have gone from key reserves last year to being major contributors for the 2023 campaign.
Singer is scoring 13 points per game and hauling down over 10 rebounds per contest. James is a good three-point shooter and quick defender with averages of 7.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2 assists.
The team’s depth includes juniors Alice Wagner-Hemstad, Greta Seppanen, Sahara Hinton and Asia Mohamed, sophomores Makyia Kenney, Cecelia Davis, Elayna VanNett and Jailyn Walker, freshman Aletha Keizer and 8th grader Ahmani Crump.
The team’s assistant coaches are Ronnie Smith, LaVera Jeffrie, and Jeff Dmytruk.
After the Twin Cities Title Game, the Cougars will begin the Section 3AAA Tournament at home on March 1.
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