Interesting field for ‘AA’ girls tourney





Top three teams from 2012 return, mixed with two State newcomers

Braham continues its incredible run with the program’s fifth straight State trip. After getting bounced in the quarterfinals last year, the Bombers aim to make an extended appearance on the Target Center floor this year to keep their 30-0 season on the perfect path.

Braham opens against BOLD in Wednesday night’s Class AA quarterfinals (8 p.m.) at the Target Center.

“I’ve always wanted an undefeated season, and I’m glad my senior year we were able to do that,” said senior guard Becca Dahlman after the Section 7AA championship win over Esko. “We’re not stopping here. I’m going for that title. That’s what I want, and that’s what we’re going to get.”

Dahlman has 4,963 career points entering the tourney after leading the Bombers with 35.6 points/game this season. She also dished 196 assists and made 184 steals while averaging 10.1 rebounds/game. Junior guard Kayla Nickles comes in averaging 18.0 ppg while knocking down 70 three-pointers in her third varsity season. Senior center Dani Braund (7.8 ppg/6.1 rpg), junior guard Jenna Winter (6.7 ppg/50 ‘3s’) and freshman guard Jaclyn Hollenkamp (8.6 ppg/7.8 rpg) fill out the starting five, with depth provided by freshmen guard Angie Bendickson (52 steals) and sophomore center Natalie Bacon (16 steals).

“The big thing is we’re not taking this for granted. There are thousands of Minnesota girls wishing they were in our place– in this tourney. We just need to take advantage of our opportunity,” spoke Coach Tim Malone.

BOLD is probably thinking on that same line for this first trip to State for the girls hoops team. The Warriors (26-3) come into the tourney on a 19-game win streak after rallying on Worthington for a 66-64 victory in the Section 3AA title game. Coach Malone was impressed by BOLD’s ability to create late havoc with their 1-2-1-1 press.

Junior 5’8” guard Carly Sigurdson is the team’s sparkplug, averaging 21.4 ppg with 110 steals; she can drive or hit the ‘3.’ Senior guard Taylor Ebnet is the team’s fastest player, leading with 123 steals while averaging 10.5 ppg. Junior guard Baylie Kubesh has 41 three-pointers and averages 14.1 ppg. Senior 5’11” forward Maggie Nagel contributes 9.5 ppg and 7 rpg, and freshman center Whitney Haney adds height at 5’10”.

“BOLD was down by seven points for much of the game against Worthington and came back to keep their win-streak alive. They are doing things right at this time of the season,” said Coach Malone.

“I haven’t talked about this a lot, but we played a brutal schedule in July last summer– every game without Becca because she was traveling with the North Tartan team. And we were undefeated in July. So these girls had a chance to succeed and work hard, and we did it again tonight,” Coach Malone said after the win over Esko.

Providence Academy vs. Pine Island

In Braham’s half of the brackets is familiar Providence Academy who the Bombers saw in the 2011 State semifinals and who went all the way last year after defeating Sauk Centre in the finals.

“Providence, the State champs, are back, and I can consider them still the champions until someone beats them,” says Coach Malone.

The top-ranked Lions (24-4) are paced by their three senior co-captain guards: 6’1” Taylor Finley, 5’11” Leah Szabla and 5’8” Nathalie Ratliff. They can also throw at you 6’1” junior forward McKenna Happke.

Pine Island (26-5) is making its first State trip out of tough Section 1AA by beating Caledonia in the finals, paying back an earlier 10-point loss to the Warriors. The Panthers are led by senior guard Cede Finstuen (12.9 ppg) and 6’2” junior center Nicole Fokken (11.7 ppg/5.6 rpg). Sam Heeren is a 6’1” starting junior guard.

Other bracket half includes New Richland-H-E-G

New Richland-H-E-G is ranked 2nd coming into the tourney while enjoying a 29-1 season. Junior guard Carlie Wagner is back and leading with 32.7 ppg while scoring over 2,600 points to date. Wagner set the three-game State tourney scoring record of 112 points last year when her team placed 3rd. Junior Jade Schultz is another leader with 12.5 ppg and 9.2 rpg. The Panthers’ lone loss was 57-56 to Chaska in the Dec. 1 Breakdown Tip-Off Classic.

The Panthers take on Pelican Rapids (21-7) whose scoring leader is freshman Mackenzie Korf (16.9 ppg). Senior Madison Korf is the team’s assist leader while adding 10.4 ppg. Senior 6’ center Alyssa Huseby adds 7.2 rpg.

2012 runner-up Sauk Centre (27-2) is making its fourth consecutive State trip, paced by 5’11” senior forward Macy Weller (14.5 ppg/6.5 rpg). Senior guard Elizabeth Ellens helps out with 10.1 ppg). The Mainstreeters get Minneapolis Washburn (22-7) in the quarterfinals, making their first trip since 1984. Junior 6’3” Chase Coley, the coach’s daughter, leads the Millers with 20.7 ppg, 17.9 rpg and 8.7 blocks/game. Senior guard Audrey DeVaughn is next with 9.2 ppg.

• The Class AA semifinals will be 6 and 8 p.m. Friday, March 15 at the Target Center. The championship begins at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 16. The 3rd-place game will be noon on Saturday at Concordia University-St. Paul.