The Wildcats have morphed into a truly spectacular team in post-season. Success in the state semis came in most dramatic fashion. It's the stuff of highlight reels. In the spotlight: Shea Oman, just a sophomore in the New London-Spicer arsenal. You know what that means: NL-Spicer is likely to keep its premier status over at least the next two years.
Oman made what the Willmar paper called a "circus shot." It came in the closing seconds of play in the Friday showdown with Sauk Centre. It's nice to see two public schools doing battle at this level of play, rather than the private outfits that filter in so often. Two outstate small communities doing battle: this is Nirvana.
The Wildcats and Streeters locked horns at Williams Arena, Minneapolis. Williams was the home to the old one-class tournament in Minnesota, the tournament that caused students to get excused from class all over the state to watch "the big show." Of course, that "big show" was profoundly unfair, as the one-class tournament was by definition unfair. We have progressed from that.
While the tournaments of today are harder for the average person to follow - so complicated with four classes - they nevertheless are enriching and entertaining, if you want to take the trouble to figure it out.
Fans of the Wildcats are ecstatic. I'm sure my friend Jody Sherstad-Jordan of New London is ecstatic. Wow! New London-Spicer defeated Sauk Centre 49-46. Enter that in the history books.
The unseeded Wildcats are now gearing up to face the top seed. They'll seek an air like Rocky Balboa, aiming to knock off Plainview-Elgin-Millville. Hey, sounds like another non-private school opponent. Let's have a toast to that! My, there's little time to get rested and recovered. Coach Dreier's crew will play PEM at 2 p.m. today (Saturday, 3/19). Again the action will be at Williams Arena.
Oman's shot made the difference Friday. New London-Spicer has disposed of both the second and third seeds. The Wildcats and Streeters were tied 46-all with ten seconds left. Timeout-time for the Wildcats. Oman got poised and positioned with a "high screen" from Megan Thorson. Oman deftly dribbled behind her back to shake Sauk's Maesyn Thiesen, then she made a bee line to the hoop and "bullseye." She drew a foul. It was "bullseye" for the freethrow too.
Four seconds were left. A three-point try by Sauk was no-go.
Dreier said the key late play went exactly as it was planned. Oman admitted that her Globetrotter-like dribble behind the back had risks. "But it worked," she was quoted saying, triumphantly.
The Streeeters led this contest 23-20 at halftime. But the Wildcats went on a 10-4 run to open the second half. Sauk had a counter-punch: a 15-5 run that had the potential of leading to victory for them. Sauk had a seven-point advantage with under six minutes left. Sauk applied a press defense, so common to see among winning GBB teams.
NL-Spicer turned up its own defense a notch. NL-Spicer outscored the Streeters 15-4 at the end. They showed a stiff zone stance, coming out to frustrate Sauk's normally good outside shooters. Dreier liked how his team controlled the game's tempo, and how they kept Sauk's premier guards from asserting themselves a whole lot.
Three-pointers certainly were not a key part of NL-Spicer's arsenal. In fact they made no long-rangers in the first half, and they finished the game three of 13. Their overall field goal percentage was decent.
Lindsey Vagle and Thorson hit jumpers after Sauk assumed that seven-point lead. Oman made a couple freethrows. Kabrie Weber connected on a most clutch '3', capitalizing on Oman's assist. That three-pointer put NL-Spicer up on the scoreboard.
"Unbelievable," Thorson said of making the state championship game. She's one of three seniors on the roster. "Determination" is the word that coach Dreier offered to characterize this thrilling unit. It's not a matter of style, as the team has run pretty much the same plays all along. Oman feels the sheer atmosphere of state is a motivator.
Megan Thorson and Kabrie Weber each scored 12 points. Oman had a point total of ten. The list continues with Erin Tebben (7), Lindsay Vagle (4), Morgan Swenson (2) and Alyssa Fredrick (2). Weber made two 3-point shots and Oman one. Thorson led in rebounds with 14 followed by Tebben with ten. Fredrick dished out four assists. Oman stole the ball twice.
Maesyn Thiesen led Sauk's scoring with 20 points. One other Streeter made double figures: Jill Klaphake with ten points. Then we have Rebecca Weir (7), Kelsey Peschel (4), Taylor Borgerding (3), Madison Greenwaldt (1) and Victoria Peschel (1). Thiesen was quite fine in three-point shooting, making four such shots. Peschel and Borgerding each made one. Wier collected 15 rebounds and Thiesen had nine. Thiesen dished out five assists. She and Peschel each had two steals.
Good luck to the Wildcats today at Williams Arena! They'll take the court within two hours after I'm typing this.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - firstname.lastname@example.org