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S L R I G LLL

L A A B B T T E 1 E 2 K 0 K S 2 S A B BA THE WEST CENTRAL TRIBUNE’S COMPREHENSIVE LOOK AT AREA TEAMS WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Set your goals high, and don’t stop till you get there.

Wishing all area teams the best of luck this season! Play hard and have fun!

WWW.CHRISTIANSONCPA.COM Willmar • 320.235.5937 | Litchfield • 320.373.1040 | Paynesville • 320.235.5937


Girls Basketball

D2 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Cards have big shoes to fill

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Willmar forward Ella Shinn scores inside over a Zimmerman contest during the 2019-20 regular-season opener from Willmar High School.

INDEX Central Lakes Conference: Willmar Cardinals ......................... 2D Wright County Conference: New London-Spicer Wildcats ....... 3D Litchfield Dragons ........................ 4D West Central Conference: Benson Braves ............................... 4D BOLD Warriors .............................. 4D Minnewaska Lakers ...................... 5D Montevideo Thunder Hawks ........ 5D Central Minnesota Conference: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Falcons ................................... 6D Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Jaguars .6D Paynesville Bulldogs ...................... 7D

Camden Conference: Central Minnesota Christian Bluejays ......................... 8D Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks .............. 9D Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Fighting Saints ............................ 10D Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles .......... 10D MACCRAY Wolverines ................ 11D Renville County West Jaguars .... 11D Yellow Medicine East Sting ........ 12D Christian Athletic League: Community Christian Eagles ..... 14D Area conference standings: ......... 15D

Credits The West Central Tribune’s 2021 girls basketball special section was written, edited and photographed by sports writers Patrick Bernadeau and Joe Brown and sports editor Tom Elliott Cover Photos Left to Right: Central Minnesota Christian sophomore guard Coco Duininck floats in for a lay-up during a Jan. 31, 2020 game against Lac qui Parle Valley from CMCS High School. Willmar junior guard Mackenzie Jones kicks the ball out to the corner during a Central Lakes Conference game Feb. 4, 2020 against Alexandria from Willmar High School. Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune New London-Spicer’s Mackenzie Rich (left) looks to drive by Willmar’s Mackenzie Jones in the first half of the championship game of the Heritage Bank WildCard Tournament on Dec. 27, 2019 at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

With five seniors departing, Willmar has challenges to improve upon last year BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

WILLMAR — The Willmar Cardinals lost a huge chunk of their girls basketball team from last season. Five seniors depart from a 17-11 squad that wound up third in the Central Lakes Conference. “All of our five seniors had a big role, from vocal leaders to defensive stoppers to point guard,” head coach Dustin Carlson said. “We have big shoes to fill from those girls leaving.” Gone are Madi Linbo, Katelyn Murphy, Ashley Prahl, Sadie Raitz and Amber Evink. But it’s not all bad. The Cardinals return two of the best players in the area, including Southwest Minnesota State recruit Mackenzie Jones and Jaida Reiman, an all-conference honorable-mention last season. Jones (5-foot-9, senior, Guard) is a two-time all-conference and West Central Tribune All-Area selection as well as Willmar’s team MVP. She averaged a team-best 14.4 points per game, shooting 34.4 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the free-throw line. She also contributed 5.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals, 2.0 assists per game. Reiman (5-8, sr., G/F) contributed 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Willmar’s Jaida Reiman (right) stays in front of St. Cloud Tech’s Emma Borchert on defense during the first half of a Central Lakes Conference game Dec. 17, 2020 at Willmar High School.

“We have a lot of experience coming back from last year and some girls who were very successful at the JV level a year ago,” Carlson said. “Combine those two factors and we are very excited about this winter.” Players to watch include Sammy Christoffer (5-5, jr., G), Callie Slagter (5-8, sr., F) and Ellary Lange (5-7, jr., G). Christopher averaged 3.8 points and 2.3 rebounds per game off the bench. Slagter contributed 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds on a squad that averaged 57.2 points per game and allowed 47.6 while finishing behind Fergus Falls (15-0 CLC, 25-5 overall) and Alexandria (12-3, 23-8) in the conference. “We feel that defense will be our strongest area, especially our rebounding, and we’ll need to have some new scoring threats step up this year,” Carlson said. “Mackenzie and Jaida proved that they are tough to handle on the offensive

side, but we will need to add a physical presence inside and another outside shooter to the mix.” There’s also a concern about point guard. Jones is an accomplished ball-handler. But, the Cards hope to have someone else do the bulk of it so that she can be set up on offense. “Ball-handling is always an area where you need to be sure of,” Carlson said. “With losing Katelyn Murphy to graduation, we will be looking at Mackenzie, Sammy and Ellary sharing those duties this year.” The Cards should be top contenders in the CLC and will hope for a high seed in a very tough Section 5AAA. Becker (28-2) returns a good chunk of its lineup and is the preseason favorite. Big Lake (19-9), Monticello (17-11) and Zimmerman (14-12) are coming off good seasons and Rocori (11-15) is expected to be improved. St. Francis (3-24) rounds out a very tough section.


Girls Basketball

Photos by Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

New London-Spicer's Emma Hanson (right) and Payton Mages (23) swarm Willmar's Sam Christoffer on defense during the championship game of the Heritage Bank WildCard Tournament Dec. 27 at Willmar High School.

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | D3

New London-Spicer’s Grace DeSchepper puts up a post shot over Paynesville’s Grace Utsch during a non-conference game Dec. 5, 2019 at NLS High School in New London.

NLS hopes to add to its tradition BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

NEW LONDON — If there was a sign or a billboard as you entered here with the achievements of the New London-Spicer girls basketball team, it’d be in need of an update. The Wildcats made the 2019-20 memorable by advancing to the state tournament for the 18th time since 1985, making that make-believe billboard heavy on type. NLS earned its first state berth in three years, helping add to a tournament list that includes 1985, ‘87, ‘88, ‘91, ‘92, ‘93, ‘94, ‘95, ‘97, 2001, ‘02, ‘03, ‘04, ‘09, ‘14, ‘16 and ‘17.

And guess what? The Wildcats have the potential to get back to state. “Our team is very experienced and has a very nice blend of inside and perimeter athletes,” NLS head coach Mike Dreier said. “All of five of our seniors have been major varsity contributors for three years. “They know what it takes to be successful, so there is no reason that they can’t be in the mix for conference, sub-section and section honors.” The fabulous five that Dreier refers to includes: Mackenzie Rich (5-7, sr., G); Emma Hanson (5-8, sr., F); Ava Kraemer (6-0, sr., F); Erin Knisley (6-2, sr., C) and Grace DeSchepper

New London-Spicer’s Grace DeSchepper puts up a post shot over Paynesville’s Grace Utsch during a non-conference game Dec. 5, 2019 at NLS High School in New London.

(6-1, sr., F/C). Rich (12.0 ppg), Hanson (11.9 ppg) and Knisley (10.9 ppg) all averaged in double figures last

year and Kraemer (8.6 ppg) wasn’t far behind. DeSchepper (5.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) “has matured as an athlete and player,” Dreier

With five starters back, Wildcats will be a state power

said. “(Her) strength is inside, but (she) can hit the mid-range shot.” Dreier calls Rich an “excellent defender, threepoint shooter, driver and passer.” Hanson, he said, is a “strong rebounder and defender (who) can score off the drive and hit the three.” Knisley “patrols the lane on D, (is) difficult to score over (and has) improved post moves,” Dreier said. And Kramer is “our best all-around post player (who is) relentless on the boards.” Expect the Wildcats to be ranked among the top teams in the state when the first polls come out. Dreier cautioned that it’ll take more than a

strong starting five for NLS to win consistently. “We will need improved contributions from some of our younger players to reach our potential,” Dreier said. Jaden Coahran (5-7, so., G); Avery Rich (5-7, so., G); Izzy Schmiesing (5-8, jr., F); Ellie Hanson (5-11, jr., F-C); Nyla Johnson (5-6, jr., G); Courtney Rich (5-4, jr., G); Audrey Schneider (5-10, jr., C) and Ellary Peterson (5-9, so., F-C) all will vie for playing time. They’ll be needed to replace graduating players Payton Mages, Isa Ommodt and Emily Giere. Mages was a three-year starter.

NLS: page D7


D4 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Girls Basketball

BOLD reshapes its lineup The Warriors will have a young team after losing a trio of senior stars BY JOE BROWN jbrown@wctrib.com

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Marissa Connelly is a returning player to watch for the Benson Braves in 2021.

New coach, new system key to Braves’ success Adam Foslien takes over at Benson, where he’ll have five new starters BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

BENSON — Adam Foslien takes over the Benson girls basketball team. A lot will be new about the Braves besides their new head coach. Foslien replaces Jonas Grossman, who stepped down as head coach in the fall. Grossman led a 201920 squad that featured five senior starters, including some of the most prolific scorers in school history. Claire Richard, Kaitlyn Berreau, Abbie Mitteness,

Abby Lundebrek and Hannah Andrews have all moved on after leading Benson to a 6-8 record in the West Central Conference and a 16-12 overall mark. As a group, they helped the Braves move from an 0-24 record as ninth-graders to 5-22 as sophomores and 7-18 as juniors. They helped beat Minnewaska 39-38 in the first round of the Section 3A playoffs before losing to eventual section champion New London-Spicer, 63-28. Foslien said the Braves have seven seniors this season “along with a junior class who will be relied on to continue the success from last year.” “Although inexperienced, the Braves should have plenty of depth this year to go along with a new

system,” he said. Players to watch include: Marissa Connelly (Sr., F), Kimmy Pagel (Sr., F), Susan Knutson (Sr., G), Beth Cain (Sr., F), Ellie Moesenthin (Sr., G), Sarah Brandt and Kaitlyn Hippe (Sr., G). Connelly averaged 1.9 points per game last year and had 42 rebounds and 33 assists. Pagel (1.7 ppg), Knutson (1.2) and Cain (2.7) also contributed to a team that averaged 50.4 points per game and allowed 50.3. Of those 50.4 points, 43.0 of it has graduated, so there’s work to do. Ricard averaged 16.0 ppg and Berreau finished at 13.7 after standout careers. Benson opened Jan. 15 at Montevideo. The Braves are host to BOLD on Jan. 18 then play Jan. 21 at Melrose.

OLIVIA — With the final remnants of the 2018-19 state team graduating, the BOLD girls basketball team is looking to reshape its roster in 2021. “The Warriors look to reload after graduating nearly 3,500 points from last year’s team,” said Warriors head coach Brian Kingery, who is entering his 13th season at the helm. “We have a mix of youth and experience on this year’s team.” BOLD graduated a trio of players who averaged double figures in Makayla Snow (14.3 points per game), Brenna Weis (13.8 ppg) and Ashley Trongard (11.2 ppg). If the Warriors hope to replicate their 18-10 showing last season, they will need to rely on perimeter play, starting with Mari Ryberg. The 5-foot-9 sophomore guard was a West Central Conference honorable-mention after averaging 8.9 points per game. She was also second on the team in steals (62), averaging 4.4 rebounds per game. Also slated for time at guard are junior Lidia Plass, sophomore Lilly Dean, freshman Kenzie Visser and eighth-grader Lainey Braulick.

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Montevideo’s Avery Koenen and BOLD forward Abby Meyers go up for the opening tip during a Jan. 7, 2020 game from Montevideo High School.

BOLD guard Mari Ryberg shoots a corner 3-pointer during a non-conference contest against Yellow Medicine East on Nov. 21, 2019 from BOLD High School.

Upperclassmen fill the lineup at the forward and post spots. BOLD has a pair of seniors at forward in Jaylen Mortensen and Maddi Jensen along with juniors Leslie Snow and Caylee Weber and freshman Kenzie Visser. Leslie Snow tallied 3.1 points per game a year ago. Abby Meyers, a 5-11 post, will anchor the paint after starting in 12 games in 2019-20. She averaged 2.3 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.

“With losing a lot of size, (we) are going to have to build on (our) quickness this season,” Kingery said. “The Warriors are looking to compete in a tough West Central Conference this season.” BOLD opens 2021 with a pair of road games, at Minnewaska on Friday, Jan. 15 and Benson on Monday, Jan. 18. The first home game will be on Thursday, Jan. 21 against defending West Central champion Sauk Centre.


Girls Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | D5

Lakers have some big shoes to fill Minnewaska is excited about the opportunity to replace a strong senior class BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

That means 64.3 percent of the team’s scoring has graduated. Replacing that group is a tall task, head coach Brett Thorfinnson admitted. “We had some girls graduate last year who had been playing with us for quite some time,” he said. “So, we have some shoes to fill. “However, we have a good group of girls ready to step in and do just that.” The Lakers do return Avery Hoeper (5-9, sr., F) and Maddie Thorfinnson (5-11, jr, PG) and that’s a great place for MinnewasPhotos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune ka to rebuild, with a strong Minnewaska guard Addy Randt is fouled while going to the Minnewaska forward Avery Hoeper goes up for a lay-up front-court player and a

GLENWOOD — For any school, the graduation losses would seem to be massive. Emma Thorfinnson, Alexis Piekarski, Hannah Hoffmann, Michele Stai and Elizabeth Murken were the heart and soul of the 2019-2020 Minnewaska girls basketball team. The Lakers fifth in the talented West Central Conference with a 7-7 record, going 12-13 overall and getting edged 39-38 by Benson in the playoffs. The five departed seniors averaged 33.8 points. Minnewaska averaged 51.3. Lakers: page D7

basket during a Jan. 30, 2020 game against Atwater-CosmosGrove City from ACGC High School.

Thunder Hawks get a fresh start BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

MONTEVIDEO — Welcome Anthony Jackson as the new head coach of the Montevideo girls basketball team. He takes over a squad that went 2-12 in the West Central Conference last season and was 6-18 overall. Jackson replaces Steve Rohloff, who retired. The Thunder Hawks averaged 49.9 points and allowed 56.0, meaning they suffered a lot of close calls in 2019-20. There were eight losses of nine points or less, including a stretch from Jan. 16 to Jan. 24 when all four losses were by five points or less. They fell to Melrose (52-48),

Yellow Medicine East (70-66), MACCRAY (60550 and Minnewaska (59-56) in the midst of a nine-game losing streak. Count Jackson among those excited to get going. He said Montevideo will be able to score from a variety of options from multiple places on the floor. “We are a well-balanced team that can score inside and outside,” Jackson said. The Thunder Hawks first must replace Jasmine Kronback and Kaylee Pauling from last year’s squad. There are, however, four starters back, including two all-conference players. Avery Koenen (6-0, so., P); Tenley Epema (5-10, so, W); Liv Gades (5-7, sr., G) and Greta Rongstad

(5-9, sr., W) were all key contributors last season. Koenen and Epema earned All-West Central honors. Players to watch include Keely Foley (5-6, jr., G) and Hailey Dirksen (5-11, so., P). Jackson likes what he has seen so far. “Every player in the program brings a great attitude and work ethic, which will help us reach out potential,” he said. They’ll deal with a West Central Conference that was led last season by state-power Sauk Centre (28-4), Melrose (19-9), BOLD (18-10), Morris/ Chokio-Alberta (17-10), Minnewaska (12-13) and Benson (16-12). Sauk Centre went 14-0 in conference play, advancing to the state

during a Jan. 30, 2020 game against Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City from ACGC High School.

New coach takes over a squad with four starters back

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Montevideo junior guard Greta Rongstad looks for an open teammate during a Jan. 7, 2020 game against BOLD from Montevideo High School.

They’ll be a challenge for tournament and playing postponed because of panthe Thunder Hawks. two games before it was demic concerns.


Girls Basketball

D6 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

BBE looks for a repeat The Jaguars hope the new season is as good as the last one BY JOE BROWN jbrown@wctrib.com

Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City sophomore guard Daniela Parker fires a jump shot during a Jan. 30, 2020 game against Minnewaska from ACGC High School.

ACGC excited about turning the corner After a 1-26 season under a new head coach, Falcons enthusiastic about improving BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

GROVE CITY — Trever Heining took over as head coach of the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City girls basketball team last season and guided the Falcons through a 1-26 season. It was a struggle. But, Heining has not lost his enthusiasm for the program. “We are excited for this year,” he said. Gone are starters Rachel Wilner and Shayna Hobson. And the 2021 squad will remain young. But there are positive signs. “We have four upperclassmen, so we are young, but we are excited to grow our program and develop these young ladies,” Heining said. “We are excited to get

better each day, and have the opportunities to compete. “We have talked about our growth to maturity in our program, and our mindset to come to practice each day to compete and get better.” Two starters return: Raenna Kaddatz (5-10, sr., F) and Deaniela Parker (5-8, jr., G). They lead a squad that averaged 31.2 points per game and shot 27% from the field and 48% from the free-throw line, both marks that need to improve. “Daniela was our leading scorer from last year,” Heining said. “Raeanna has been working hard in the weight room to improve her physicality on defense and rebounding.

“Grace Kaehler and Elli Roemeling played a lot of minutes last year as eighth-graders and have been tremendous leaders during our summer basketball.” Others to watch include: Karla Schultz (5-10, sr., C); Mikaili Johnson (5-8, fr., G); Hannah Keller (5-5, fr., G) and Brooke Tagtow (5-3, 8th, G). “We are excited for Mikaili Johnson,” Heining said. “She played JV last year with a little bit of varsity, and improved each day. “She is intense and has a tremendous work ethic and pushes everyone around her to be their best.”

BELGRADE — Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa made school history in 2019-20. And despite losing three starters to graduation, the Jaguars hope to repeat history with a second straight state berth. “BBE is coming off (its) first-ever state tournament berth and (has) the goal of getting back there,” said Jaguars head coach Kristina Anderson, who is 149-86 heading into her ninth season. “Even though the team loses three starters, they return plenty of depth and a large senior class with great leadership.” The defending Section 5A champions will be led by senior forward Allisa Knight. An All-Central Minnesota Conference and All-Area selection in 201920, the 6-foot Knight hit 58 percent of her shots for 12.9 points per game along with 7.3 rebounds per game and 25 total blocks. Her biggest game came in the section championship with 22 points. Along with Knight, senior guard Jackie Lindsay is the other returning starter for a Jaguars lineup that has seven seniors. Karissa Jones, a 5-8 senior forward, returns after finishing third on the team with 9.2 points per game on 54.2 percent shooting. Four seniors are in the

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa junior forward Alissa Knight powers inside for a shot attempt during a Central Minnesota game against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Feb. 7, 2020 from BBE High School.

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa junior guard Jackie Lindsat dribbles around the perimeter during a Central Minnesota game against Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Feb. 7, 2020 from BBE High School.

mix at guard in Karsee Kampsen (5.4 ppg, 49.0 shooting percentage), Abby Berge (6.2 ppg), Josie Knutson (3.9 ppg, 78.3 free throw percentage, 41 assists) and Liz French (2.1 ppg). Anderson’s goal is to use BBE’s athleticism and quickness to full effect. “This is a team that will look to pressure and play an up-tempo style of play,” Anderson said. “They have a great balance of guard

and post play. They should be a fun team to watch.” Going 9-5 in Central Minnesota play in 201920, the Jaguars open 2021 on the road against defending conference champion Royalton on Thursday, Jan. 14. Then, BBE has three straight home games: Tuesday, Jan. 19 vs. Paynesville; Thursday, Jan. 21 vs. Kimball; and Thursday, Jan. 28 vs. Holdingford.


Girls Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | D7

NLS

page D3

And, Section 3AA should be quite good. Litchfield, Morris/Chokio-Alberta, Eden Valley-Watkins and Minnewaska are all expected to be strong in the north sub-section, Dreier believes. In the south, Redwood Valley and Windom are expected to be strong section title contenders. It’ll make for an interesting season for the Wildcats, who should be one of the state’s top teams.

Lakers page D5

Junior guard Macy Carlson is a returning All-Central Minnesota Conference player for the Paynesville Bulldogs.

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

New coach, new approach for Paynesville Bulldogs turn to Jacob Heimerman to lead the program BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

PAYNESVILLE — Jacob Heimerman takes over as the new head girls basketball coach at Paynesville, replacing Phil Carlson, who retired. Heimerman has been a part of the Bulldogs’ basketball programs since 2010. It’s also his second stint as head girls basketball coach. Heimerman led Payensville from 2010-14. A mathematics teacher, he then switched over to the boys’

program, where he was head coach from 2014-18. He also was the head boys and girls golf coach from 2011-15 and has coached in the baseball program, leading the JV team from 2010-11. Before that, he was a teacher in Pine City. A 2004 LeSueur-Henderson graduate, he has his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southwest Minnesota State. Heimerman takes over a program that returns four starters from a team that

finished 2-12 in the Central Minnesota Conference and 4-22 overall. Leading the cast of returnees are Brynn Johnson (5-10, sr., F); Natalie Lieser (5-9, sr., G); Macy Carlson (5-6, jr., G) and Katie Uhlenkamp (5-11, so., C). Carlson was an all-conference selection last year. She averaged 5.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.7 assists per game. Johnson earned all-conference honors as a

sophomore in 2018-19, but didn’t play last year. She’s rejoined the team and is being counted upon to contribute. Lieser (6.6 ppg) and Uhlenkamp (6.2 ppg) also were key contributors. Johnson returns after missing last season because of injury. Heimerman lists Uhlenkamp as a player to watch. She led the Bulldogs with 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. Heimerman is concerned about the loss of Halrey Kunstleben, who

led Paynesville in threepoint shooting, making 31.5 percent of her shots and taking an average of 8.1 three-point attempts per game. She led the Bulldogs with 9.3 points per game. Heimerman’s assistants will be Brad Skoglund and Tammy Meagher. Skoglund, who coaches the junior varsity, is Paynesville’s longtime and highly successful head baseball coach. He also was the Bulldogs’ head girls basketball coach at one time.

skilled backcourt person to take care of the ball. Hoeper averaged 3.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season. She was the Lakers’ second-best rebounder. Maddie Thorfinnson contributed 8.6 points per game, shooting 30 percent from the field and 51 percent from the free-throw line (43 of 83). She led the Lakers with 2.0 assists per game. And had 3.4 rebounds with a team-leading 47 steals. The head coach, who has a 119-123 record in nine seasons, believes there is enough talent to make Minnewaska successful. Players to watch include: Mankena Panitzke (Sr., G); Isabelle Ortendahl (Sr, P); Annika Randt (Sr., G); Addy Randt (Jr., G); Emma Kovarik (Jr., G); Olivia Richards (Jr., G); Brecklyn Beyer (Sr., F), Maddy Meulebreock (Jr., G) and Leah Hagen (Jr. G). “We have some girls who don’t have a ton of varsity experience, but I believe (they) will contribute some really good minutes for us,” Brett Thorfinnson said. “I’m very excited to see what this group can do.”


Girls Basketball

D8 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

New look, but familiar success

The CMCS Bluejays should be a top Camden North team again BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

(5-11, jr., F) was an all-conference honorable mention. “The CMCS girls basketball team will definitely be a different team than last year and we are excited at the possibilities of many new faces,” said Mike Mulder, who begins his third season as the Bluejays’ head coach. “We lose all three all-conference seniors who contributed strongly to a successful 20-game winning season.” CMCS won the Camden North with a 13-3 record, going 20-7 overall last season. The Bluejays lost

PRINSBURG — The Central Minnesota Christian girls basketball team will have a different look this year, mostly because of the loss of three all-conference players from 2019-20. But head coach Mike Mulder is enthused about who he does have back. That includes two of the top returning players in the Camden Conference. Coco Duininck (5-7, jr., PG) was the Co-Most Valuable Player of the North Division of the Camden last year. And, Molly Mulder Bluejays: page D13

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Central Minnesota Christian forward Molly Mulder lines up a free-throw attempt during a Dec. 10, 2019 contest against Dawson-Boyd from Central Minnesota Christian School.

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Girls Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | D9

Blackjacks will be young, hungry Dawson-Boyd hopes to improve on a 1-23 2019-20 season BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

DAWSON — The Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks have some work to do. They’ve lost two key starters and are coming off a 1-23 season. The Blackjacks shot 30% from the field and 47% from the free-throw line. They averaged 36.6 points per game and allowed 68.4. Their high-water mark was a 58-41 victory over Ortonville on Feb. 8, 2020. That broke a 21-game losing streak that dated back to the 2018-19 season. They seek to better the overall record and stats heading into 2021. “We have another young team with many new faces

out for basketball,” said Justin Wager, who had a 30-90 record in six seasons as head coach. “We look forward to improving throughout the season.” The Blackjacks return three starters who will be expected to right the ship: Chelsie Husby (5-7, so, G), Rachael Lund (5-8, sr, G) and Alexis Breitenstein (5-6, sr., F). They’ll have to compensate for the loss of seniors Avery Bartunek and Amelia Olson. Both are tough to replace. Avery Bartunek averaged 15.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Olson was good for 6.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. They’ll start with the trio of Huby, Lund and

Breitenstein with contributions from Laney Bartunek (5-11, jr., F).had 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Husby averaged 2.0 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Lund averaged 3.0 points and 1.6 rebounds. Breitenstein Laney Bartunek accounted for 3.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Dawson-Boyd’s schedule remains difficult. In the Camden Conference, state power Minneota (30-1 last season) will be tough, as will Lakeview (20-8) and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (15-11) in the South Division. Central Minnesota Christian (20-7) led the North Division and Lac qui Parle Valley (1610) and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (14-13) had winning seasons. The Blackjacks hope to move up in the standings Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune after finishing sixth in Dawson-Boyd guard Chelsie Husby plays defense above the three-point line during a Dec. 10, the North. 2019 contest against Central Minnesota Christian from Central Minnesota Christian School.

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D10 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Girls Basketball

Fighting Saints are on a youth movement

KMS will feature one of its youngest teams in recent years BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

KERKHOVEN — Kerhoven-Murdock-Sunburg will be young in 2021. “We lost three of our top four scorers from last year’s team but still have a solid Photos by Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune core to work with,” head Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Hayley Demuth looks to coach Justin Johnson said.

Saints: page D13

dribble around MACCRAY’s Kylee Kimpling during a Dec. 2, 2019 game from KMS High School.

Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg guard Maret Gjerde drives into the lane during a Jan. 13, 2020 game against Hancock from KMS High School.

LQPV hires a familiar face

Alumnus Dylan Erickson takes over an experienced Eagles’ squad BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

MADISON — Dylan Erickson takes over at Lac qui Parle Valley and it’s not like the new head girls basketball coach is going to need a tour of the campus. Erickson is a LQPV graduate. He’s well aware of the state of the program and is excited to embark on his first season as the Eagles’ head coach. “I graduated from LQPV in 2013 and am excited to be back to help out the program,” Erickson said. He takes over a team

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Lac qui Parle Valley guard Alex Stitt pushes the ball up the floor during a Jan. 31, 2020 game against Central Minnesota Christian from CMCS High School.

that went 9-7 in the Cam- expected to rule the roost den Conference North after going 31-1 last year. Division and 16-10 overall. There are some possibilities The Eagles were 8-2 in SecLac qui Parle Valley guard Macie Lund dribbles into the lane during a Jan. 31, 2020 game tion 3A, where Minneota is Eagles: page D13 against Central Minnesota Christian from CMCS High School.


Girls Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | D11

RCW turns a corner The Jaguars hope to build on an improved 2019-20 season BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

MACCRAY sophomore Gabby Randt elevates for a shot in the paint during a Dec. 2, 2019 game against Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg from KMS High School.

MACCRAY plans for a continued uptick

RENVILLE — The Renville County West Jaguars are hoping to have turned a corner in 2019-20, winning their first games since the 2017-18 season. After a winless ‘18-19, RCW posted a 5-22 record. Victories came over Dawson-Boyd (44-39 on Dec. 2 and 57-37 Jan. 31), Ortonville (58-39 Dec. 27 at Montevideo), Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda (58-48, Jan. 2) and Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (54-53, Jan. 27). There are enough players returning that the Jaguars believe they can continue

MACCRAY sophomore Ella Bourne dribbles the ball from the perimeter during a game Dec. 2, 2019 against KerkhovenMurdock-Sunburg from KMS High School.

upon the improvement on leadership roles,” head they showed in ‘19-20. coach Greg Hagen said. “We are a young team Those four are Holly with four juniors needing to step up and take RCW: page D15

The Wolverines closed last season strong and have four starters back BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

CLARA CITY — The 201920 season started slowly for the MACCRAY Wolverines, who were forced to contend with a rugged Camden Conference schedule with a young lineup. Then, things started to click. MACCRAY went 5-5 over its last 10 games to MACCRAY sophomore Ella Bourne dribbles the ball from the

MACCRAY: page D15

perimeter during a game Dec. 2, 2019 against KerkhovenMurdock-Sunburg from KMS High School.

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Renville County West center Hannah Pharr establishes post position during a Jan. 3, 2020 game against Yellow Medicine East from Renville County West High School.


D12 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Girls Basketball

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Yellow Medicine East guard Yansi Flores rises for a 3-point shot during a Nov. 21, 2019 non-conference contest against BOLD from BOLD High School.

Returning trio are key to YME’s hopes

Mortenson, Ruff, Flores are back as Sting starters BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

GRANITE FALLS — The Yellow Medicine East girls basketball team hopes to build around three returning starters who likely will dictate the Sting’s fortunes in 2021. The trio were key players in a 13-11 2019-20 season that included a 9-7 record in the very strong Camden Conference South Division. Leading the way is Shelby Mortenson, a 6-foot junior center who earned all-conference honors as a sophomore. Mortenson averaged 11.5 points per game, second-best on the team. She shot 48 percent from the field and contributed 8.3 rebounds per game, as well as 3.6 blocks per game. She’ll be the center of attention for

Yellow Medicine East center Shelby Mortenson tries to attempt a shot over the defense of Renville County West center Hannah Pharr during a Jan. 3, 2020 game from Renville Yellow Medicine East guard Brylea Ruff fires a 3-pointer during the first half of a Jan. 3, 2020 County West High School. game against Renville County West from Renville County West High School.

opponents’ defenses. Also back is Brylea Ruff, a 5-9 senior guard. Ruff averaged 5.9 points per game, making 27 of 102 three-pointers and shooting 84 percent from the free-throw line. She chipped

in with 2.7 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 assists per game last season. The third member of the trio is Yansi Flores, a 5-10 junior forward. Flores averaged 2.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and

1.7 steals per game.She led the Sting in assists. They try to replace Madison Hinz and Lauren McCosh, who graduated. Hinz led YME with 16.0 points per game. And had 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 steals

and 2.5 assists. McCosh contributed 6.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. YME has had back-toback winning seasons under head coach Ryan Schultz, who is back for his third season.

The Sting opened Jan. 14 at Central Minnesota Christian, then were scheduled to play Jan. 15 against Lac qui Parle Valley in Granite Falls. Their next game is Jan. 21 at home against Renville County West.


Girls Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | D13

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunberg’s Maret Gjerde gathers the ball for a shot in the lane against MACCRAY on Dec. 2, 2019 from KMS High School. Photos by Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Central Minnesota Christian guard Nyssa Vogel is trapped above the arc during a Jan. 31, 2020 game against Lac qui Parle Valley from CMCS High School.

Bluejays page D8

52-49 to Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart in the Section 2A tournament after beating the Mustangs 63-57 three weeks earlier. They led the Camden North with 58.3 points per game and had at 45.2 points allowed, were the top defensive squad in the sixth-team division. Coach Mulder says they’ll need an even bigger contribution from Duininck and Molly Mulder. “Coco is a quick, head’sup guard with a solid allaround game,” the coach said. “We look for Coco to lead with her skills and be a more vocal leader on the court.” Duinick is a two-time member of the West Central Tribune’s All-Area team. She averaged 18.9 points, 5.2 steals and 3.9 assists per game last season. Mulder (5.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 steals, 2.0 assists) will big asked for bigger contributions. “Molly’s presence on the court has not always been defined by points scored,

Central Minnesota Christian sophomore Maaike Duininck fires a 3-pointer during a Jan. 28, 2020 game against Wabasso from CMCS High School.

but we look for that to shift this year,” the coach said. “With Molly’s length and ability, we will be looking to her as a scoring threat as well. “Both girls will need to lead this team with their experience and competitive drive.” Players to watch include Nyssa Vogel (5-4, sr., G); Maaike Duininck (5-8, jr., G); Emma Roiseland (5-8, jr., F); Reagan Swart (5-8, jr., F); Lilly Mellema

(5-10, fr., F); and Lauren Taatjes (5-11, fr., C). “Our senior leadership will come from Nyssa Vogel, who is a feisty guard,” the coach said. “This team will consist of many new players,” Coach Mulder concluded. “Yet these girls love to compete and we look forward to seeing their growth as individual players and as a team and hope to compete in all our games this season.”

Saints page D10

“We will be a much younger team this year than the past couple, so much of our success will rely on how quickly we can get some girls to that varsity speed.” Madison Rohner, Morgan Lesteberg and Haylee Johnson were long-time contributors for the Fighting Saints, but also were 2020 graduates. Rohner (17.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.9 bpg) is one of the school’s all-time greats. Lesteberg (7.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.2 spg) and Johnson 94.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg) were solid, key players.

Eagles page D10

for a good season. “We have some experience sprinkled with some young, exciting talent,” Erickson said. Four starters return. Only Sidney Gerdes has graduated from a squad that averaged 57.7 points per game and surrendered 52.3. The 57.7 is second to only Central Minnesota Christian (58.3 ppg) in the Camden North.. Returning starters are:

Two starters are back from last season’s 14-13 team that went 9-7 in the Camden Conference North Division: Maret Gjerde and Lauren Krieger. Gjerde (5-8, sr., G) was an all-conference last season after averaging 10.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game. She’ll be one of the top guards in the conference. Krieger (5-4, sr., F) averaged 3.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. “I would expect our team strengths to be solid team defense and (to be) a good outside shooting team,” Johnson said. Others returning with

significant varsity playing time include Josie Gjerde (3.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.3 apg) and Hayley Demuth (4.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg). Josie Gjerde (5-4, so., G) and Demuth (5-10, jr., F) will be joined by Grace Collins (5-4, jr., G), Julia Carlson (5-5, so., F), Else Gjerde (5-3, so., G) and Shakira Olson 5-10, so., G/F) as players to watch in 2021. The Fighting Saints, who averaged 50.4 points and allowed 48.9 per game in 2019-20, opened the season Jan. 15 at Canby. KMS plays Lakeville on Jan. 18 in Kerkhoven, then hits the road Jan. 21 to play at Tracy-Milroy-Balaton.

Macie Lund (5-5, sr., G); Alex Stitt (5-5, sr., G); Cassidy Olson (5-9, sr., P) and Addy Bonn (5-6, jr., G). Lund was an all-conference selection last year. There are two intriguing sophomores. Cameron Lee (6-1, so., P) gives LQPV some much-needed size. She earned honorable-mention all-conference honors last season.Taylor Shelstad (5-9, so., G) also was an all-conference performer, Erickson said. Erickson and assistant coach John Shurb

are anxious to get going. They opened Jan. 15 at Yellow Medicine East, then were scheduled to play Jan. 18 vs. Canby in the home-opener before traveling to Cottonwood for a Jan. 21 game against Lakeview. Lakeview was a 20-game winner last season and the No. 2 seed in the north sub-section just ahead of No. 3 LQPV and behind No. 1 Minneota. “I am excited to get to work in my first year as head coach at LQPV,” Erickson said.


D14 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Girls Basketball

Community Christian’s Grace Lindgren drives to the basket during a game against South Metro on Feb. 28, 2020 at Community Christian School.

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Community Christian School Here’s a look at the Eagles: 2021 CCS schedule: Friday, Jan. 15 — At Lake Region Christian, 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18 — North Metro Blazers, 4:45 p.m Tuesday, Jan. 19 — at St. John’s Prep, 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22 — Rochester Home Schools, 4:45 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Tuesday, Jan. 26 — St. Cloud Christian School, 5:30 p.m. at Athlos Academy Friday, Jan. 29 — St. Cloud Christian, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2 — South Metro, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 — at St. John’s Prep, 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8 — Rochester Home Schools, 4:30 p.m. at Brownton Area Civic Center

Thursday, Feb. 11 — at Immanuel Lutheran, 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15 — Valley Christian, 1 p.m. at Association Retreat Center, Osceola, Wis. Tuesday, Feb. 16 — St. John’s Prep, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19 — Cambridge Christian, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25 — Cambridge Christian, 4 p.m. at Cambridge Armed Forces Community Center Friday, Feb. 26 — Valley Christian, 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4 — Tournament, TBA, at Immanuel Lutheran (Home games in bold)

Community Christian’s Sage Mulder brings the ball up the floor during a game against South Metro on Feb. 28, 2020 from the Community Christian School gymnasium.


Girls Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | D15

2019-20 STANDINGS Prep Girls Basketball From Minnesota-Scores.net

Central Lakes Team Fergus Falls Alexandria Willmar Brainerd Sartell Sauk Rapids Tech Rocori Apollo

Camden North

Team CMCS LQPV KMS MACCRAY RCW Dawson-Boyd

South

Team Minneota Lakeview T-M-B YME Canby R-T-R

RCW

page D15 Bratsch, Jenny Bratsch, Addyson Tanner and Hannah Pharr. Holly Bratsch averaged 10 points and four assists last season. Jenny Bratsch contributed six points and six rebounds. Tanner had eight points and two steals per game. Pharr had 10

Con. Over. 15-0 25-5 12-3 23-8 11-4 17-11 11-5 14-13 6-10 11-16 5-11 8-19 4-12 6-21 3-10 11-15 2-14 2-24 Con. Over. 13-3 20-7 9-7 16-10 9-7 14-13 5-11 8-20 3-13 5-22 0-16 1-23 Con. Over. 16-0 31-1 11-5 20-8 10-6 15-11 9-7 13-11 8-8 11-14 3-13 6-19

points, eight rebounds and four blocks per game. She’s definitely someone to watch in the Camden Conference. “Hannah P. has an opportunity to really put up some numbers (in) scoring, rebounding (and) blocking shots,” Hagen said. “If she works hard and competes game-in and game-out, we are going to

Central Minnesota

Team Royalton EV-W Holdingford BBE HL-W-W Maple Lake Paynesville Kimball

West Central

Team Sauk Centre Melrose BOLD Morris/CA Minnewaska Benson Montevideo ACGC

Con. Over. 13-1 23-6 12-2 21-8 10-4 22-6 9-5 19-11 6-8 16-12 3-11 9-18 2-12 4-22 1-13 2-25 Con. Over. 14-0 28-4 10-4 19-9 9-5 18-10 8-6 17-10 7-7 12-13 6-8 16-12 2-12 6-18 0-14 1-25

Wright County West Team NLS Wat.-Mayer Rockford Annandale Glencoe-SL Litchfield Mound-Wes. Das.-Cok.

have success.” Also back is Rachel Jakel. The ninth-grader averaged four points, five rebounds and three steals per game last season. Hagen sees the rest of the squad of potential varsity players to be quite young. They are ninth-graders Emily Lippert and Laila Ridler and eighth-graders Avery Roxberg and

Con. Over. 14-0 29-2 11-3 22-8 9-5 19-9 8-6 17-12 6-8 14-14 5-9 11-16 2-12 6-21 1-13 2-23

Johanna Braun. A decent start is a possibility. RCW opens Jan. 15 at Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, a winnable game. Then, they are host to Minneota on Jan. 18. The Vikings were 31-1 last season. Then, it’s a Jan. 21 game at Yellow Medicine East in Granite Falls. The Jaguars lost to the Sting 63-50 on Jan. 3 last season.

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

MACCRAY freshman Sydney Thein is fouled on a jump shot during a Dec. 2, 2019 game against Kerkhoven-MurdockSunburg from KMS High School.

MACCRAY page D15

end the season 8-20 and on an uptick. The Wolverines hope to build on that momentum with a much more experienced squad. “We return four starts and a lot of playing time this year,” said Shaun Condon, who is in his fourth season as head coach and has a 31-47 record. “We return all three of our all-conference players. “After a rough start to last year, we made strides toward the end of the year.” The four starters back are: Ella Bourne (5-5, jr., PG); Gabby Randt (5-11, jr., F); Alison Koenen (5-7, sr., F) and Kaisa Jaenisch (5-6, sr., G). Only guard Kate Hultgren has graduated. Bourne and Randt were All-Camden Conference selections. Jaenisch was an honorable-mention. Bourne led the Wolverines with 10.4 points per game and 79 steals.

She averaged 2.7 assists per game and is a threepoint threat who made 56 of 195 from long range (28.7%) last year. Randt averaged 9.6 points and a team-leading 8.0 rebounds per game with 2.6 assists and 2.7 blocks. Jaenisch (7.6 ppg, 3.0 repbg, 3.0 apg) and Koenen (3.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) will be depended upon for continued improvement. Players to watch include Kylee Kimpling (5-9, jr., G); Elsie Sumner (5-11, jr., F), Brynn Lozinski (5-7, jr., F) and Sydney Thein (5-8, so., G). Kimpling (2.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg), Sumner (2.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg), Lozinski (0.5 ppg, 0.7 rpg) and Thein (2.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg) were all versity contributors last year for a team that averaged 45.8 points per game, shooting 29.2 percent from the field and 49.2 percent from the free-throw line. Condon is optimistic about continued improvement. “This group is tough,” he said. “And I know they put a lot of time over the summer working on their game.”


D16 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Girls Basketball

Good Luck to all our area sports teams

from all of us at the To advertise in our Spring edition contact Christie at csteffel@wctrib.com or 320-214-4317


S Y BO ALLLL BA

B T T E 1 E 2 K 0 K S 2 S A B BA

THE WEST CENTRAL TRIBUNE’S COMPREHENSIVE LOOK AT AREA TEAMS WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021


Boys Basketball

E2 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Cards plan for an up-tick After struggling last season, a more-experienced Willmar squad hopes to avoid a repeat BY JOE BROWN jbrown@wctrib.com

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

New London-Spicer junior forward Mason Toutges shoots a floater in the lane during the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic finale Dec. 29, 2019 against Willmar from Willmar High School.

INDEX Central Lakes Conference: Willmar Cardinals ..........................E2

Christian Athletic League: Community Christian Eagles ........E8

Wright County Conference: New London-Spicer Wildcats ........E3 Litchfield Dragons .........................E3

Camden Conference: Central Minnesota Christian Bluejays ...........................................E9 Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks ...............E9 Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg Fighting Saints .............................E10 Lac qui Parle Valley Eagles ...........E10 MACCRAY Wolverines .................E11 Renville County West Jaguars .....E11 Yellow Medicine East Sting .........E12

West Central Conference: Benson Braves ................................E4 BOLD Warriors ...............................E4 Minnewaska Lakers .......................E5 Montevideo Thunder Hawks .........E5 Central Minnesota Conference: Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City Falcons ....................................E6 Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Jaguars .. E6 Paynesville Bulldogs .......................E7

WILLMAR — The Willmar boys basketball team doesn’t want a repeat of 2019-20. After back-to-back winning seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19, the Cardinals took a step back last season with a 7-20 record. Looking through his roster, Willmar head coach Matt Williams sees a squad ready to rebound. “This team has the potential to be really good and really versatile,” said Williams, who enters his fifth year on the bench with a 65-73 record. “It will all depend on how the

boys adapt and learn to play together.” “If they can continue to work hard and play smart,” Williams added, “I believe we could improve from last year.” Senior 6-foot-2 guard Jacob Rosendahl returns after leading the Cardinals in scoring in 2019-20 at 11.6 points per game, hitting 44.8% of his 3-pointers in the process. Rosendahl also averaged 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists. Willmar also returns its top post presence from last season in 6-3 senior forward Chase Dirksen. He returns after averages of 9.7 points (on 56.2 %

shooting), 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. The duo hope to offset the losses of Jack Jeffords (11.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.9 apg) and Samuel Fraser (11.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.8 apg). The Cardinals also have some size at the forward position with seniors Ross Minnick (6-6) and Aaron Watland (6-4) along with sophomore Blake Schoolmeester (6-6). Out on the perimeter, Willmar will look for additional contributions from senior Hunter Magnuson, juniors Alex Schramm and Cayden Hansen, and sophomore Sam Raitz. The Cardinals begin 2021 with a pair of Central Lakes Conference home games, playingRocori on Thursday, Jan. 14 and Sauk Rapids on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Credits The West Central Tribune’s 2021 boys basketball special section was written, edited and photographed by sports writers Patrick Bernadeau and Joe Brown and sports editor Tom Elliott Cover Photos Left to Right: Willmar forward Sam Raitz fires a corner 3-pointer during a Dec. 12, 2019 game against St. Peter from Willmar High School. Central Minnesota Christian’s Case Mulder converts inside through contact during a Jan. 28, 2020 game against Wabasso from CMCS High School. Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune LQPV’s Maverick Conn beats a Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa defender for a layup at the rim during a game in the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic on Dec. 27, 2019 at Willmar High School. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Willmar’s Jacob Rosendahl hoists up a 3-point shot against Heritage Christian Academy in the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic on Dec. 27, 2019 at Willmar High School.


Boys Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | E3

Wildcats excited for a fresh start After taking its lumps last season, NLS is ready for a better 2021 BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

NEW LONDON — The New London-Spicer boys basketball team admittedly struggled last year. A 4-22 season, including a 1-13 mark in the Wright County Conference’s West Division, has a way of coming to that realization. Head coach Skip Wright, however, believes that the Wildcats improved throughout the season. He also believes that they will win more games in 2021. “Our players and coaches are just excited to get back on the court,” Wright said. “We took our lumps last year, but we feel like

we finished the season playing solid basketball. “Our team had a good summer even though it was cut short due to COVID. Additionally, a number of our kids worked really hard on their game this offseason. With a little luck and strong senior leadership, we hope to be competitive in our conference and section.” NLS has five starters back. Four are seniors. Jaden Zylstra (6-3, sr., C), Tyler Danileson (6-0, sr., F) and Mason Toutges (6-1, sr., F) form a sturdy, athletic front line. Levi Streich (6-1, sr., G) and Peyton Coahran (5-10, jr., G) return in the backcourt.

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

New London-Spicer head coach Skip Wright draws up a play after calling a late timeout during the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic finale on Dec. 29, 2019 against Willmar from Willmar High School.

New London-Spicer guard Wolzen Holland looks to work around a screen during the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic finale against Willmar on Dec. 29, 2019 from Willmar High School.

Toutges and Danielson earned honorable-mention honors on the all-conference team. Danielson, Toutges and Coahran each averaged nine points per game. Zlystra and Streich came on strong at their positions at the end of the year, Wright said. Brycen Christensen (6-2, so, F/G) is expected to be a major contributor.

conference last season,” Wright said. There is an intriguing newcomer. Trey Olson (5-11, sr., G) is a transfer student from Sartell. He’s expected to see floor time. Wright commented on the unusual year and the delay in getting started because of the state guidelines restricting practice and play because of the

“(He) did very well playing limited minutes as a freshman last season and will be an important part of our rotation,” Wright said. Perhaps the player Wright is most high on is Wolzen Holland. His praise for the senior guard was effusive. “Wolzen Holland established himself as one of the top defenders in our

coronavirus pandemic. “We’ve only had one practice wearing masks, which will take a little getting used to,” Wright said. “I don’t believe it will be an issue affecting our player other than we do need to ease into conditioning work here at the beginning of the season.” The Wildcats can’t wait to get started.

Dragons bring back experience Led by its defense, Litchfield expects to be strong again BY JOE BROWN jbrown@wctrib.com

LITCHFIELD — Averaging more than 20 wins the last two seasons, an experienced Litchfield boys basketball team will look to keep up that high-end play in 2021. The Dragons bring back four starters from one of the stingiest defenses in Class AA at 46.5 points per game in 2019-20. And led by the guard play, the offense will be able to handle its end, according to head coach Matt Draeger. Litchfield finished 18-10 last season, with an 8-6

mark in the Wright County Conference. “We return seven of (our) top eight players and most of our scoring from last year,” said Draeger, who has a career record of 53-32. “We have good experience at the guard positions.” At the top of the lineup are seniors Avery Liestman and Tyson Michels, who both earned All-Wright County honors last season. Liestman, a 6-foot-4 wing, was Litchfield’s top scorer in 2019-20 with 14.9 points per game, also grabbing 4.2 rebounds and shooting 49% from the

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Litchfield junior forward Avery Liestman uses a betweenthe-legs dribble to create separation against Maple Lake senior guard Ben Clapp during a game on Dec. 5, 2019 from Litchfield High School.

field. Michels, a 6-2 point guard, was second on the team with 10.9 points per game, tallying team bests

Litchfield guard Tyson Michels flings a baseline pass to the corner during a Dec. 5, 2019 game against Maple Lake from Litchfield High School.

Also resuming duties in assists (4.1 per game), in the starting lineup are steals (1.8 per game) and defensive rebounds (4.0 6-1 senior post Ben Alsleper game). ben and 6-0 senior guard

Drew Kotzer. Last season, Alsleben put up averages of 5.4 points, 2.1 rebounds

Dragons: page E8


Boys Basketball

E4 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

A BOLD new look for Warriors Key graduation losses from 27-2 will push new players into the lineup BY JOE BROWN jbrown@wctrib.com

Photos by Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Benson’s Ben Peterson jumps through a crowded lane for a layup attempt durin a regularseason game against Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley on Jan. 2, 2020 in Benson.

Benson off to the races, again

BIRD ISLAND — BOLD’s lineup is going to look much different than the top-ranked squad in 2019-20. Highly athletic players like Gavin Vosika, Jordan Sagedahl, Matthew Moorse and Blake Plass have all graduated from a team that went 27-2 last season. The sixth highest-scoring offense in Class A (79.7 ppg), those four accounted for 61.8% of the Warriors’ points. But with senior guard

Drew Sagedahl back in the mix with another crop of quality athletes, the Warriors hope to limit any dropoff when the 2021 season gets underway. “A lot of new faces but (we have) pieces that we feel we can plug in and fill roles nicely,” said BOLD head coach Jake Brustuen, who enters his fourth year with an 84-28 record. “(It) will be a little different feel (for) us and we will have a lot of learning curves along the way. But as we figure out our roles and get used to playing together, (we) should be a dangerous team come postseason.” One of the top players in the area in 2019-20, Drew Sagedahl averaged a school record 22.1 points per game while hitting 48 % of his shots from the field and 38 % from beyond the 3-point line. Scoring 30-plus points in six games

last season, Sagedahl also averaged 8.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.7 steals per game. The 6-foot-1 guard was an All-Area first teamer and is slated to play college basketball at Division III St. John’s University. Brustuen hopes to fill the gaps in the lineup with a trio of seniors in guard Braeden Tersteeg and forwards Aiden Elfering and Avery Herdina, along with junior guards/forwards Max Marks and Cole Visser. Of that group, Tersteeg is the most experienced, averaging 2.2 points and 1.4 assists in 19 games. The defending West Central Conference champ (13-1 in conference play in 2019-20), BOLD begins 2021 with a pair of home games: vs. Benson on Thursday, Jan. 14 and vs. Minnewaska on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Braves return four starters to fast-paced offense BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

BENSON — Introducing a new offensive system that emphasized pace, first-year Benson head coach Adam Jensen helped spark a Braves turnaround last season. Winning seven games during the 2018-19 season and going winless the year prior, Benson ripped off a 15-12 record a year ago by pushing the ball and firing from long distance. Knocking down 11 3-pointers a contest, the Braves averaged 71.3 points per game — nearly a 15-point bump from the previous season. And the

Benson head coach Adam Jensen gives orders to his team during a game against Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in Benson on Jan. 2.

good news is this: the team brings most of that firepower back. Senior guards Ben Peterson, Cole Hedman and Abe Peterson return after receiving all-conference nods as juniors.

Ben Peterson was the top-scorer of the group at 18.1 points per game. Hedman is next at 16.9. Abe Peterson put up 11.6. Senior guard Sam

Braves: page E8

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

BOLD’s Drew Sagedahl (right) drives by Morris/C-A’s Jaden Maanum during the first half of a West Central Conference game Dec. 20, 2019 in Bird Island.


Boys Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | E5

Veteran Lakers eye a deep run Minnewaska returns four starters from 21-win team BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

GLENWOOD — Winning more than 20 games for the second time in three years, the Minnewaska boys basketball program had plenty of moments during the 2019-20 season. Facing the No. 1 ranked team in Class A on the road, the Lakers handed West Central Conference foe BOLD its only loss of the regular season. Minnewaska finished on top of the Section 3A-North standings and outlasted

Photos by Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Minnewaska’s Aaron Ver Steeg looks to drive to the hoop as a Jackson County Central defender looks on during the Section 3AA championship game on March 12, 2020 at the R/A Facility in Marshall.

Redwood Valley in the The Lakers haven’t lost sub-section championship much from last year’s game before falling to squad and are geared to Jackson County Central in the section final. Lakers: page E8

Minnewaska’s Peyton Johnsrud puts up a runner against a pair of Jackson County Central defenders during the Section 3AA championship on March 12, 2020 at the R/A Facility in Marshall.

Montevideo led by junior class Thunder Hawks aim to compete with hard-working group BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Montevideo guard Kaden Boike dribbles against full-court pressure during a non-conference game against New London-Spicer on Dec. 3, 2019 from New London-Spicer High School.

MONTEVIDEO — Outscored by more than 500 points over the course of the 2019-20 season, Montevideo limped its way to a 1-25 record. The Thunder Hawks dropped their first 24 games before capturing a 68-51 victory over Yellow Medicine East in the regular-season finale. Montevideo has to find a way to be more competitive if it wants to improve in the win column. While also winning just one game during the 2018-19 season, the

Montevideo guard Bradyn Schultz takes a pull-up jump shot in the lane during a non-conference game against New LondonSpicer on Dec. 3, 2019 from New London-Spicer High School.

team gave itself a chance in many contests as it dropped 12 games by 10 points or less. However, of the team’s 25 losses last season, only two were decided within the same margin. In his fourth season as head coach, Derek Webb

hopes to take a step forward by leaning on his junior class. Two starters return: Kaden Boike (5-9, jr., G) and Bradyn Schultz (5-11, jr., G). Elevated from their bench roles, Landon Stock

Montevideo: page E9


Boys Basketball

E6 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Falcons adapt on the fly Things are looking up at BBE The Jaguars should have good depth and experience

ACGC will need new faces to contribute after seven seniors graduated

BY JOE BROWN

BY PATRICK BERNADEAU

jbrown@wctrib.com

pbernadeau@wctrib.com

GROVE CITY — There may not be a single team in the area that has more pieces to replace heading into the 2021 boys basketball season than Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City. After finishing with an 11-16 record last season, the Jaguars lost seven key players from their rotation due to graduation. Those seven players accounted for 95 percent of the team’s offensive output, but no losses were bigger than 1,000-point

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Braedan Pickle fires a longdistance shot during a non-conference game against Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart on Jan. 7, 2020 from ACGC High School in Grove City.

scorers Dawson Miller and Steven Lawver. Selected to the Tribune’s All-Area second team, Miller wrapped up his career by averaging an area-high 24.3 points per game on 56 percent shooting from the field. He recorded 272 total rebounds, 73 steals and 28 blocks, each were teambests. Miller has resumed

his basketball career at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth. Pacing the team with 61 made 3-pointers and shooting 42 percent from long distance, Lawver was second in scoring at 17.4 points. He hopes to continue his

Falcons: page E9

BROOTEN — After reaching the Section 5A-West championship, the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys basketball team looks to roll it back this winter. With four starters back from 2019-20 and another starting-caliber player back from injury, it’s an attainable goal for the Jaguars after a 14-15 mark last season. “As a coaching staff, we are very excited for this season,” said BBE head coach Chris Anderson, who heads into his seventh year. “We have a fun group

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

ABBE’s Andrew Weller rips down a rebound during Monday’s Central Minnesota Conference game against Paynesville in Brooten.

of players returning.” While losing All-Central Minnesota Conference first-teamer Jackson Peter (12.6 points, 7.0 rebounds per game) to graduation is a blow, the Jaguars have plenty of experience back on the court. After leading the team in scoring at 13.6 points per game, sophomore Kaden Pieper is back. A 6-foot-2 forward,

Pieper earned first-team All-Central Minnesota honors after averaging 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game. A second-team All-Central Minnesota pick in 2019-20, junior guard Will VanBeck (6.8 ppg, 3.9 apg, 2.4 rpg) returns to the starting lineup alongside

Jaguars: page E9

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Boys Basketball

Froelich and who? BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

PAYNESVILLE — Paynesville is riding high after managing its first winning season in 13 years. The Bulldogs finished the 2019-20 season with a 16-12 record, including an impressive 9-3 mark on the road highlighted by a win at Benson in the opening round of the Section 3AA-North tournament. With momentum squarely on the program’s side, Gang Green enters 2021 with its eyes on a Central Minnesota Conference title. The team finished second last season with a 10-4 conference record. Before it can march towards that goal, Paynesville will have to sort out its roster after losing five

of its top six scorers from a year ago due to graduation. However, the player the offense revolves around is back and gearing for a strong senior season. Bulldogs guard Corbin Froelich led the team with 21.6 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5 guard attempted 444 field goals, nearly 200 more than anyone else on his team. Even with the high volume, Froelich was efficient, draining 45 percent of his shots. He made 192 free throws and was a 70-percent shooter at the line. The biggest question is where will the rest of the team’s production emerge from? With increased minutes, expect to see Chase Bayer (6-0, jr., G), Mitchell Bertram (6-1, sr., F) and Kadin Ludwig (6-1, sr., G) to try

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | E7

After banner year, Paynesville searches for offensive answers

Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Paynesville guard Corbin Froelich drives into traffic a Section 3AA-North semifinal against Minnewaska on March 5, 2020 from Willmar High School.

to fill in the blanks. Paynesville’s season came to an end after a 52-46 loss to Minnewaska

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Boys Basketball

Dragons page E3

and 1.1 assists while Kotzer averaged 6.3 points, 1.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds. In the post, Litchfield also will count on 6-2 senior Christian Kelsey and 6-4 junior Dom Dietel while 6-3 junior Beau Weseloh will see time at both the post and at wing. Logan King,

Braves page E4

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Community Christian School’s Daniel Reid puts up a shot against a St. Cloud Christian triple-team during the first half of a Christian Athletic League game Feb. 11, 2020 in Willmar.

Community Christian School Here’s a look at the Eagles:

Lakers page E5

2021 CCS schedule: Friday, Jan. 15 — At Lake Region Christian, 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18 — North Metro Blazers, 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22 — Rochester Home Schools, 6:30 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Tuesday, Jan. 26 — St. Cloud Christian School, 7 p.m. at Athlos Academy Friday, Jan. 29 — St. Cloud Christian, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2 — South Metro, 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4 — Faith Christian, 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5 — Tournament, TBA, at St. Francis Christian Saturday, Feb. 6 — Tournament, TBA, at St. Francis Christian

Lenarz joins that threesome as a returning starter. “We will have a lot of guys back from last year’s team. We return most of our scoring in Ben Peterson, Cole Hedman and Abe Peterson,” Jensen said. “Those three along with a deeper bench will allow us to play an up-tempo game and use our speed and outside shooting to make up for our lack of size.”

Monday, Feb. 8 — Rochester Home Schools, 6:30 p.m. at Brownton Area Civic Center Thursday, Feb. 11 — at Immanuel Lutheran, 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15 — Valley Christian, 3 p.m. at Association Retreat Center, Osceola, Wis. Friday, Feb. 19 — Cambridge Christian, 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23 — Faith Christian, 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25 — Cambridge Christian, 5:30 p.m. at Cambridge Armed Forces Community Center Friday, Feb. 26 — Valley Christian, 6 p.m. (Home games in bold)

get over the hump with a veteran group. “We return some solid experience along with some good athleticism,” Minnewaska head coach Phil Johnsrud said. “We hope to be able to fill the shoes of graduating seniors. If so, we could be a good team in the WCC and Section 3AA.” Four of the team’s five starters are back, led by all-conference players Aaron Ver Steeg (6-3, sr., G/F) and Peyton Johnsrud (6-2, sr., G). Ver Steeg led the team last year with 213 rebounds and 60 steals. Johnsrud

a 5-10 junior, will handle some point guard duties while 6-0 sophomore Alex Draeger will also patrol the perimeter at guard. The Dragons start the 2021 season at home against Hutchinson on Tuesday, Jan. 19. They will follow up with back-toback road games: at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted on Thursday, Jan. 21; and at Dassel-Cokato on Monday, Jan. 25.

As well as the Braves put the ball in the basket, the team didn’t possess a ton of height last year, which loomed large particularly on the defensive end. Benson actually allowed more points (71.6) per game than it scored. This season, the team will be without its leading rebounder from a year ago in Will Enderson, who graduated. Juan Espinoza (6-3, so., F), Sam Grussing (6-0, sr., F) and Matt Laumeyer (6-1, sr., F) will be asked to fill that rebounding void from their frontcourt spots.

was second in scoring at 14.2 points per game at 51 percent shooting. An all-conference honorable-mention, Sam Hested (6-4, sr., F) is a long and athletic player on the wing. Brady Hoffman (6-5, sr., P) is another returning starter who led the team in blocks last season. Connor Johnsrud (6-2, sr., F), Mitchell Gruber (5-11, sr., G) Jace Lindemann (5-10, sr., G) and Cole Harste (6-3, sr., P) round out the senior contributors. The Lakers lost three rotation players due to graduation: Grant Jensen, Luke Barkiem and Drew Nelson. Jensen was the biggest departure after earning all-conference honors in 2019 and 2020.


Boys Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | E9

Montevideo page E5

(6-1, jr., G) and Andrew VanBinsbergen (6-0, jr., G) each add a bit more size on the perimeter. Colby Buseman (6-2, sr., P) is the team’s only senior letter winner. “This group of kids has a no-quit attitude and a great work ethic,” Webb said. “They have high expectations for themselves and have put in the work to earn that. Thunder Hawk basketball will be fun to watch

Falcons page E6

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Dawson-Boyd forward Gauge Liebl whips a pass across the baseline during a Dec. 19, 2019 game against Kerkhoven-MurdockSunburg from KMS High School.

Blackjacks hope to be a quick study A young Dawson-Boyd squad has little varsity experience BY JOE BROWN jbrown@wctrib.com

DAWSON — Playing in a condensed season is hard enough. And in that short amount of time, the Dawson-Boyd boys basketball team will try to bring an inexperienced squad up to speed with only four returning letterwinners. “We will need to build experience quickly,” said the Blackjacks’ Cory Larson, who is heading into his 15th year as head coach. Last season’s team

Dawson-Boyd guard Micah Olson fires a 3-pointer during a Dec. 19, 2019 game against Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg from KMS High School.

was 17-9 overall and 10-6 in the Camden Conference. “This group of kids does a great job of competing

each and every day,” Larson added. Losing two of the area’s top scorers from 2019-20 in Zach Durfee (20.7 points per game) and Romell Horton (18.5 ppg), 5-foot-11 senior guard Micah Olson will try to pick up the slack as the top returning scorer. Last season, he averaged 9.8 points on 47% shooting (36% from 3-point range). He also averaged 3.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals per contest. Along with Olson, 6-3 senior forward Gauge Liebl is a returning starter after coming up with 7.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. Seniors Zeke Sather (1.3 ppg) and Jordan Hastad (2.8 ppg) are back as returning letterwinners. Newcomers who are slated to be in the mix

for Dawson-Boyd include senior Hunter Martinson, juniors Braxton Hahn, Collin Swedzinski and Caleb Torke, and sophomore Keegon Wicht. “We don’t have a lot of length but will look to overcome that with a group that gives a lot of effort,” Larson said. While going through growing pains, the Blackjacks look to keep up their winning tradition. Dawson-Boyd won 72.9 percent of its games in the 2010s and has not had a losing season since going 11-13 in 2006-07. The Blackjacks kick off the 2021 campaign on Saturday, Jan. 16 at Minneota before hosting Yellow Medicine East for the home opener on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

career this season at Ridgewater College if and when play resumes. ACGC will lean heavily on three players to carry the load this year: Braedan Pickle, A.J. Slinden and Levi Lilleberg. Pickle averaged 4.5 points after appearing in all 27 games last season and is the lone returning starter. Falcons head coach Terry Miller describes the 6-foot senior guard as “a great athlete who can play both ends of the floor.” Fellow seniors Slinden

Jaguars page E6

seniors Ryan Schwinghammer (9.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and Andrew Weller (1.6 ppg). The biggest addition for BBE is the return of 6-4 junior guard/forward Ashton Dingmann, who missed all of his sophomore season due to injury. In 2018-19, Dingmann averaged 16.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while earning All-Central Minnesota first-team honors.

this year and we are excited to get the year rolling.” The Thunder Hawks will find out quickly what they’ll need to work on. They open with three straight games before having the benefit of a practice. Opening the season at home against Redwood Valley on Jan. 14, Montevideo then hits the road Jan. 15 at Morris/ Chokio-Alberta. On Jan. 16, the Thunder Hawks play at Morris/CA again. Jan. 18 is a practice day. Then, Montevideo plays Jan. 19 at Benson. and Lilleberg will bring different things to the table. Slinden will be expected to control the paint while Lilleberg will count on versatility and intangibles. “This will be a very interesting season,” Terry Miller said. “In a year with heavy losses to graduation, it would have been nice to have time for this group to gel and find their identity. But in this crazy year, we are in the same boat as everyone else and will have to learn and adapt on the fly.” The Falcons will play the 2021 season in Central Minnesota Conference after years playing in the West Central. “One of our strengths should be our depth,” Anderson said. “This should create competition within our team, which will make for energetic and competitive practices. Our goal is to take the energy and competitive drive from practice and apply it to games.” The Jaguars will look to get the season off on the right foot Friday, Jan. 15 when they host Maple Lake in the season opener. “We are excited for the journey ahead,” Anderson said.


Boys Basketball

E10 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Can Conn carry the Eagles? All-Camden senior forward one of three starters back for LQPV BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg guard Alex Call drives to the basket during a Camden Conference game against Dawson-Boyd on Dec. 19, 2019 from KMS High School.

Call brothers provide 1-2 punch Guard tandem highlight KMS’ bounce-back hopes BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

KERKHOVEN — The Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg boys basketball team took a step back last season after putting together winning campaigns the previous two years. Dropping their first six games of the 2019-20 season and enduring a fivegame losing streak as the postseason approached, the Fighting Saints mustered a 9-17 record after allowing 62.2 points per game while only scoring 57.5. However, there is reason for optimism at KMS as one of its better players is back and healthy. Isaac Call returns to the starting lineup after his

season was abbreviated due to injury a year ago. The 6-foot-3 senior guard/forward averaged 8.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals in nine games last season. He will team with his younger brother, junior guard Alex Call, to provide the Fighting Saints with a potent combo. Earning all-conference honors and voted as the team MVP, Alex Call had a breakout season as a sophomore. He poured in 20.6 points per game — nearly a 10-point increase from his freshman effort — and led the team with 6.7 rebounds. “It will be really nice to have a healthy Isaac Call back for his last season,” KMS head coach Matt Fragodt said. “Alex Call will lead the way; but those

two together are a really good 1-2 punch.” Issac Rudningen is the team’s third returning starter after being voted as the team’s Most Improved Player last season. The 6-1 sophomore guard averaged 6.8 points per game. Elsewhere, Gavin Thorson (5-11, G), Gage Thorson (5-11, G) and Drew Johnson (6-0, F) are a trio of juniors who are expected to be key factors. “We also have some strong younger players that could contribute later in the season,” Fragodt said. “Everyone that we have returning got a lot better throughout the year and we are excited to see what happens this year.”

MADISON — The next victory for the Lac qui Parle Valley boys basketball team will be career win No. 100 for head coach Barry Besonen. Coming off a 19-win season last year and an 18-win campaign the year prior, the Eagles are in line to add many more wins to Besonen’s career total this season. LQPV has a number of key players back from a team that went 11-5 in Camden Conference play and was Section 3A North runner-up. Versatile on the perimeter and in the paint, senior guard/forward Maverick Conn headlines the group of returners. Standing at 6-foot4, Conn averaged 17.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game last season en route to

Photos by Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

LQPV’s Hunter Conn (left) puts up a 3-pointer over the reach of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s Andrew Weller during a game in the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic on Dec. 27, 2019 at Willmar High School.

all-conference honors. Evan Hegland (6-5, sr. F) and Landon Schirm (5-9, jr. G) are the other two returning starters. Hegland put up 11.2 points and 4.1 rebounds a game. Schirm averaged 3.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game a year ago. Elsewhere, senior guard Mykey Elias and junior guard Kaiden Allpress are expected to contribute on the perimeter. Defensively, junior forward Hunter Conn brings a shot-blocking presence on the interior. The Eagles will need to make up the production

and playmaking ability of Austin Bonn, who graduated as the program’s all-time leader in assists and steals and was second in scoring. Still, the team is confident that the pieces are in piece for a third-consecutive winning season. “We return a good nucleus of experienced veterans who are looking to improve on last season,” Besonen said. “There is good size and athleticism with the ability to score at all five positions. This is a very competitive and motivated group.”

LQPV’s Maverick Conn beats a Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa defender for a layup at the rim during a game in the Bremer Bank Holiday Classic on Dec. 27, 2019 at Willmar High School.


Boys Basketball

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021 | E11

MACCRAY ready to make a run Experienced Wolverines hope to improve upon last season’s 20-7 record BY TOM ELLIOTT telliott@wctrib.com

CLARA CITY — If Lucas Post has a little more hop in his step this season, it’s because of what he thinks is going to be a big year for the MACCRAY boys basketball team. “We have two of our top scorers returning along with a tone of experience up and down the roster,” said Post, who is in his third season as the Wolverines’ head coach. “We have a bunch of solid returning seniors and talented juniors that will step in and give us added scoring punch.” Leading the way is Brady Kienitz. A 6-foot-1 senior point guard, Kienitz is a

two-time All-Camden Conference selection and a two-time West Central Tribune All-Area Team member. (He was second team in 2019-20). Kienitz averaged 20.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.0 steals per game in 2019-20, when MACCRAY put together a 20-7 record, including a 12-4 mark in the Camden’s North Division. That put the Wolverines just behind conference champion Central Minnesota Christian, which went 14-2 in the division and 24-5 overall. Kienitz does have plenty of help. Trenten Carvaness (6-4, sr., F/P) also is back. Cavaness was an all-conference pick who averaged

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

MACCRAY junior guard Brady Kienitz drives to the basket during a Dec. 6, 2019 game against Renville County West from MACCRAY High School.

MACCRAY forward Tommy Hoekstra launches over Renville County West’s Brandan Hoberg during a Dec. 6, 2019 game from MACCRAY High School.

15.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.5 apg and 1.0 blocks per game. Also back in the starting lineup are Will Asche (6-2, sr., F) and Brooks Asche (6-4, jr., F). Will averaged

5.1 ppg and 2.8. Brooks had averages of 4.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg and 1.0 bpg. Post believes they’ll be able to replace two key players who graduated: Blake

Wadsworth and Ole Sandry. There are challenges. “We will need to lean on our experience and depth to bolster up our defense and provide quality minutes,” Post said. The Wolverines led the Camden in scoring, averaging 72.2 ppg. They also allowed 62.7 ppg, which put them sixth out of six teams in the Camden North.

After falling to Lac qui Parle Valley in the second round of the Section 3A playoffs, MACCRAY hopes it can carry its season further in 2021. The Wolverines opened Jan. 14 against Lakeview in Cottonwood. They then were scheduled to play their home-opener at 7;30 p.m. Jan. 19 against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in Clara City.

Ashburn pilots RCW attack All-Camden senior forward one of three starters back for hungry Jaguars BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

RENVILLE — Underwhelming for much of the last decade, the Renville County West boys basketball team has been solid recently under long-time head coach Matt Huhnerkoch. The Jaguars are coming off their third consecutive season with at least 15 wins. If the team can continue its success this season, Riley Ashburn will likely be the catalyst. Surpassing the 1,000point mark a year ago, the 6-foot-4 senior forward led the Camden Conference in scoring at 21.9 points per game and was

second in field goal percentage at 58 percent. En route to All-Camden honors for the second year in a row, Ashburn is a dynamic scorer that produces points in the paint and on the perimeter. He’s also a skilled playmaker (3.8 assists per game, fifth in the conference), an impactful defender (4.0 steals, second in the conference) and a strong on the boards (9.0 rebounds per game, sixth in the conference). After leading RCW to an undefeated record during the football season, Brandan Hoberg (6-0, sr., G) and Jaden Kolker (5-11, sr., F) join Ashburn as returning starters. Hoberg

put up 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game. Kolker added 6.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals. “Experience will be the strength of this year’s squad as a senior-dominated group looks to take the next step up in the Camden Conference,” Huhnerkoch said. “The Jaguars were well known for quickness and defense last year and are expected to excel in those areas again this season.” The Jaguars ended their season with a crushing 60-59 loss against Dawson-Boyd in the opening round of the Section 3A-North tournament. The team had more than 10 months to stew over the last-second defeat and

Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

Renville County West forward Riley Ashburn gets double teamed in the post during a Camden Conference game against Yellow Medicine East on Jan. 6, 2020 from Yellow Medicine East High School.

have used it as motivation heartbreaking playoff loss in a very competitive conheading into 2021. last year has this group ference and section,” Huh“The bad taste of a very excited to make a run nerkoch said.


Boys Basketball

E12 | WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2021

Sting seeking a reversal of fortune BY PATRICK BERNADEAU pbernadeau@wctrib.com

GRANITE FALLS — Outscored by about 21 points per game, the Yellow Medicine East boys basketball team beared through a rough 2019-20 season.

The Sting picked up their lone victory of the year in their 20th game of the season as YME finished with a 1-23 record. It was also winless on the road and stumbled through a 1-15 mark in the Camden Conference. This year is a new year, though. And YME hopes four returning starters can

help dig the team out of the bottom of the standings. Kyle Chase is back after finishing second on the team in scoring at 11.3 points per game. The 6-foot senior guard paced the Sting from the perimeter with 68 3-pointers.

Named as a Camden-South honorable-mention, sophomore guard Cody Dahlager returns following a year where he was third on the Sting in scoring (8.5 per game), second in rebounds (4.2) and led in assists (4.1) and total

Yellow Medicine East guard Isaac Jimenez guards a Renville County West player on the perimeter during a Camden Conference game on Jan. 6, 2020 from Yellow Medicine East High School.

Photos by Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Yellow Medicine East guard Cody Dahlager directs a play in the half-court during a Camden Conference game against Renville County West on Jan. 6, 2020 from Yellow Medicine East High School.

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minutes (761). Isaac Jimenez (5-5, jr., G) and Caleb Jans (6-1, sr., G) round out the rest of the returning starters. The one starter not back in uniform this season leaves a massive hole to fill. Sting 2020 graduate Carter Sneller was the team’s top scorer, rebounder and nabbed the steals. Still, the coaching staff believes there are enough pieces to pick up the slack. “We are excited to get back on the hard floor,” YME head coach Jacob Suter said. “We have a really nice mix of young and old players. It will be fun to see the competitive nature of our practices and we hope to see that transfer over into games.” Tyler Nordaune (5-10, sr., G), Silas Whitebuffalo

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Profile for West Central Tribune

Prep Basketball Previews January 2021  

Previews and photos from all the west central area teams, as published by the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn.

Prep Basketball Previews January 2021  

Previews and photos from all the west central area teams, as published by the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn.

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