Loftus

Stoughton’s Ava Loftus shoots a 3-pointer in a game against McFarland last season. Loftus is back as the lone starter for the Vikings after averaging 11.1 points per game last season.

When and if the Stoughton girls basketball team gets approval to play games outside of Dane County, coach Brad Pickett will see it as a gift.

“Something is better than nothing,” Pickett said. “It’s hard to tell where we are at, because there is no one playing defense in front of us. When and if we get an opportunity, we will be ready.”

Stoughton went 8-16 last season and finished seventh out of eight teams in the Badger South Conference, with a 3-11 record.

It’s been a slow buildup this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s been more than nine months since any Viking team has played a game.

The Viking girls basketball team had one official practice this season before Public Health Madison and Dane County issued an order banning indoor gatherings. During that time, Stoughton conducted virtual practice and training sessions with players.

That month-long ban expired three weeks ago, but the succeeding order restricts gatherings indoors to 10 people or fewer, nixing any return to the court within the county.

The Vikings have returned to no-contact small-group practices, with masks and social distance of at least six feet apart required.

“It’s been a lot of 5-on-0 offense and individual skill workouts,” Pickett said.

The lone starter back for Stoughton is junior guard Ava Loftus. Last year, Loftus averaged a team-high 11.1 points, 4 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game and was honored as first-team Badger South All-Conference. She shot 72.2% at the free-throw line and led the team with 33 3-pointers.

“Ava has to be one of the best 3-point shooters in the conference and guards in the area,” Pickett said. “She can score at all three levels. She has a good pull-up jumper and midrange game.”

The other returning players for the Vikings are junior Victoria Ashworth, seniors Hannah Furseth, Caylie Kotlowski, Makayla Ramberg and Evelyn Olsen.

Pickett said the Vikings have had great senior leadership in practices so far.

Stoughton has 17 players who have been practicing on the varsity team.

Pickett said two juniors the Vikings are counting on in the post are 6-foot-1 Annie Tangeman and 5-11 Cora Borroughs.

“We will be inexperienced, but I think we have the ability to shoot the ball and our guards are pretty quick,” he said. “I think if we get the opportunity to play this group will surprise some people.”

The Badger Conference isn’t holding conference competitions or crowning conference champions during the winter sports season.

Pickett said he’s not sure whether the Stoughton Area School District would approve allowing high school winter sports teams playing games outside of the county before an in-person return to school.