With her stellar varsity basketball career winding down, Raeleigh Menke is hoping to make this season one to remember.
The 5-foot-10 senior has had an impact for Class D-1 Friend since her freshman season. Her scoring average has been in double figures all four years, topped by this season’s 22.6 per-game performance.
Though she has helped the Bulldogs reach state two of the past three seasons, the team has come up short of its ultimate goal. That’s something Menke, the school’s career scoring leader, hopes to change.
“I think we do have the potential to get it done,” she said. “We all feel like if we can get back to state, we can do some damage.”
The Bulldogs won their only championship in 2014, the year before Menke joined the team. Friend reached state in 2015 and 2016 but was eliminated in the first round, losing both games by two points.
Last year, the Bulldogs failed to reach the tournament. Friend lost in subdistricts to Meridian, a team it had beaten just one week earlier.
“We didn’t end last season the way we had hoped,” Menke said. “We all felt that we had unfinished business after that loss.”
Menke worked hard over the summer to prepare for her final varsity season, playing for the All-Nebraska Attack club team. The results have shown not just in her scoring but in other parts of her game.
She is averaging seven rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals. She’s also made 22 3-pointers and is shooting 82 percent (111 of 135) from the foul line.
“Raeleigh impacts our team in so many ways,” Friend coach Scott Kraus said. “Her biggest strength is her versatility because she can do it all on offense and defense.”
Offensively, Menke can handle every position from point guard to center. Defensively, she has the speed and size to match up against a player at any position.
Kraus said Menke’s work ethic is the reason she has continued to improve. She averaged 14 points as a freshman, 17.3 as a sophomore and 20 as a junior before this season’s 22.6.
“To improve your scoring average by a few points every year isn’t easy,” the coach said. “And the way she plays makes everyone on our team better.”
That list includes seniors Claire Kubicek and Maggie Lawver and junior Bridgette Baugh. Kubicek averages almost 10 points per game, while Lawver and Baugh each average seven.
Menke also has the inner drive that comes from being the youngest of four athletic sisters. Nicole, Krista and Taylor Menke all left their mark at Friend before Raeleigh got there.
“I have felt some pressure because I know that those are big footsteps to follow,” she said. “But I just try to go out there and play my best.”
Menke said she often gets advice from her big sisters, especially Taylor. She was a member of that state championship squad in 2014 and now plays for Hastings College.
“We’ll play one-on-one in the gym,” Raeleigh said. “She’s always telling me things that I can use in a game.”
She also gets advice from her father Ed, an assistant coach for the Bulldogs.
“I can be running as fast as I can and he’ll tell me to go faster,” Raeleigh said. “He doesn’t take it easy on me, that’s for sure.”
Menke and her teammates have the Bulldogs in the hunt for another state tourney berth. With subdistricts less than two weeks away, Friend is 16-3 and ranked 10th in Class D-1.
The senior said she is uncertain of her post-graduation plans and whether those plans will include basketball. Menke said her only goal awaits at the state tournament in Lincoln.
“The seniors feel as though we don’t have enough to show for all of our hard work,” she said. “We’re pushing each other to get to state and hopefully win that championship.”
Pioneer Conference Tournament Semi-Finals
GBB – 3 p.m.: Sacred Heart vs. Johnson-Brock
BBB – 4:30 p.m.: Sacred Heart vs. Tri County
GBB – 6 p.m.: Lourdes CC vs. Friend
BBB – 7:30 p.m.: Lourdes CC vs. Johnson-Brock
Where: Lourdes Central Catholic High School, Nebraska City
Radio: 103.1 FM, B103.fm