"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wildcats of New London-Spicer climb to semis

The talk toward the end of this past winter was that the New London-Spicer girls might not be quite as good as usual. Maybe I heard that from MACA fans wanting to feel they had a chance against the Wildcats. Well, the MACA girls finished a pedestrian season by going 1-1 in the post-season, like the boys, meaning we would have no March madness bubbling here.
I don't know, maybe people just don't care that much.
Meanwhile in New London-Spicer, the future is now, as it always is. I'm sure it's a festival of fun. On Wednesday, an unusual night for high school sports, Wildcat pride most certainly bubbled at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. This year's Wildcats, far from being a lukewarm team by the standards of that program, look to be a historic unit.
Coach Mike Dreier's crew debuted in state with not only a win, but a decisive win. Their foe had the No. 3 ranking in state. Totally undaunted by that, the Wildcats worked to take complete control of this game. They crushed Minnehaha Academy 58-44 to reach the state semis. The team is truly in the glow earned by the elite. They have won four straight games by an average margin of 22.5 points. They are the cream of the state Class AA crop.
The next assignment for coach Dreier's crew: playing Sauk Centre Friday at Williams Arena, the most storied venue for hoops in Minnesota. Game-time is the rather late 8 p.m. Friday. I'm sure the Wildcats will be unfazed taking the court to play the 30-1 Mainstreeters. New London-Spicer was in fact defeated by Sauk Centre earlier this winter, 54-37. That was a Christmastime affair.
The writer for the West Central Tribune, editorializing, said: "But the Wildcats look like a different team than the one from nearly three months ago." Maybe the writer is right. We'll see.
Megan Thorson was a fixture with her resilience and productivity on the court. She poured in 17 points against Minnehaha Academy. Plus she collected ten rebounds. She was on the court nonstop, excelling under those bright lights of a state venue (making the job much easier for photographers).
Minnehaha Academy presented height on the court. So NL-Spicer prioritized trying to get an edge on the boards. And they did in fact do that. The stats show NL-Spicer with 39 rebounds, Minnehaha with 34.
The Wildcats presented a somewhat streaky offense but those streaks proved vital in building an advantage. The game began with the Wildcats getting up 10-4 on the scoreboard. The first half ended with an 11-5 run that brought a wave of cheers from the New London-Spicer fans. The halftime score was 30-21, NL-Spicer on its way.
Minnehaha is known as the "Redhawks." I like that name. Those Redhawks tried clawing back but were frustrated when Lindsey Vagle and Brooke Beuning hit consecutive 3's for the Wildcats. Those bombs got NL-S up by six.
The Redhawks had an undaunted air and got their deficit down to a mere four points with 6:30 left to play. At this pivotal juncture, NL-Spicer summoned "mo" once again, outscoring those Redhawks 12-2 to end the game. Eight of those 12 points were put in by Shea Oman, an outstanding sophomore on the roster. Shea was held to two points in the first half but found the range in the second. She finished with 13 points.
The New London-Spicer reserve players scored 13 points compared to Minnehaha's five.
Defensively the Wildcats showed a zone scheme that neutralized the Redhawks much of the time. It was a 2-3 zone. Often the Redhawks were limited to putting up contested shots from outside.
"We did the little stuff right," coach Dreier was quoted saying.
Here are some telling numbers: Minnehaha made just six of 26 shots from 3-point territory. Here's another: two of 17 shot numbers by Minnehaha's undisputed star player, Sarah Kaminski, who will be playing college ball at George Mason University. Kaminski scored just 12 total points. She was reportedly ill for this game, according to Dreier. I once got in trouble, or let's just say I took some total hell, over reporting that a Paynesville cross country runner was sick going into the section meet. Injuries and illnesses are not off the table for sports reporting, I would argue. But Morris can be a strange town. We're a clique-y town, often forcing decisions that aren't in the best interests of our young people.
Terra Rhoades led Minnehaha in scoring with 22 points, the game-high total. Terra hit three 3's. She and Sarah were dominant in the Redhawks' offense but they needed a little more help from others. Only four Redhawks put in points.
Coach Dreier exudes optimism going into the Sauk Centre game. He was quoted saying: "Since the tournaments have started, the girls seem to have way more determination and way more focus."
So it's just determination and focus? I would argue that an outstanding coach simply gets his team pointed in the right direction. Such a coach would never pat himself on the back by saying that. Don't be fooled.
I'm pleased to notice that NL-Spicer is planning fan buses for the Sauk Centre game. Fan buses are more rare, generally speaking, than they used to be. The Wildcats own a 24-6 overall season record.
Oman made two 3-pointers Wednesday. These four Wildcats each made one: Alyssa Fredrick, Kabrie Weber, Lindsey Vagle and Brooke Beuning. Megan Thorson led in rebounds with ten, followed by Weber (9), Oman (6), Morgan Swenson (5) and Erin Tebben (4). Oman dished out three assists while these three Wildcats each had two: Thorson, Weber and Beuning. Weber had three steals and Oman two.
Rhoades made three 3-pointers for the loser. Kaminski made two 3's and Mia Curtis made one. Kaminski grabbed seven rebounds for the Redhawks, plus she had three assists and four steals. Good luck to Kaminski in her post-high school play. Minnehaha Academy finishes with a 25-4 season mark.
Oh, let's review the New London-Spicer scoring list from Wednesday: Megan Thorson 17, Shea Oman 13, Kabrie Weber 7, Alyssa Fredrick 6, Brooke Beuning 5, Lindsey Vagle 5, Morgan Swenson 2, Erin Tebben 2 and Mariah Adams 1.
 
Meanwhile in MACA
Apparently there is a rumor afloat here in Motown that we might see a change in coaching with our male Tigers.
Mark Torgerson got the appointment at a time when our community was embroiled in politics. A sociologist should have come here, camped out and written a book. I could try to write one myself. But as they say, it's all just water under the bridge. Or, is it "under the overpass," or "over the underpass," as Del Sarlette and yours truly used to joke.
The school district was the vortex for a lot of unpleasant stuff in the late 1980s. We had a new superintendent who wanted to appoint Chris Baxter as our BBB coach. I could see the wisdom behind the super's thinking: I think he saw it as healthy for an outsider with his own clear philosophy to come and and take over a program - a person with more of an AAU type of philosophy than what we had.
Our school district was being hurt in the eyes of the wider area, by having extracurricular programs not tailored in the properly ambitious way. To quote one friend of mine, we had programs that were little different from phy. ed class. Which is maybe wholesome enough, but we had to respect the kind of sports model that predominated, one which, like it or not, puts a premium on wins. Sports would be like a model for life in that regard.
A formal protest against the status quo grew in Morris. When our boys basketball coach departed, there was a vacuum that could be filled in either of two ways: the entrenched good old boys getting their way, or a fresh new outsider with a philosophy more in line with the prevailing standards.
Our new superintendent, presented to the public in a ballyhooed way, was forced into being a toady, in some respects, and our coach of today got the job, many, many years ago.
The old issues don't seem relevant now. In my opinion there were years when we could have done better, including this past season, or should I say post-season. Our BBB team can never be counted on to deliver pleasant surprises in the post-season, and I think that's sad. The situation is about the same for our girls program. The programs are treading water.
I know, not everyone can win. But it should be your goal to win and to be a special program like New London-Spicer.
I don't know if we already have a good candidate in the system to replace our boys coach if he should resign. I'm just getting old and tired.
I suffered miserably because of my known opinion of supporting Baxter. I was made into an absolute pariah in some quarters. It affected my ability to be a positive journalistic contributor for this community. I would argue it even forced the newspaper to hire a new editor, a very heavy-smoking person who spewed tremendous amounts of secondhand smoke into the air at the Sun Tribune shop.
I spent years as a pariah and I want to implore you all that I really am a good person. Maybe only God and I know that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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