NEW LONDON — Neither coach nor players could summon words to describe what they had just accomplished.
The New London-Spicer girls basketball team dispatched the undefeated and No. 10-ranked Class AA team in the state by 32 points Saturday night to win the annual Wild-Card Tournament.
Wildcats head coach Mike Dreier and star player Taylor Thunstedt both could only smile and shrug. Lydia Kieft, with the tournament trophy in hand, merely voiced what everyone was thinking.
“Shocking,” the senior guard said following the Wildcats’ 57-25 win over Minnehaha Academy.
The Wildcats by 16 points eight minutes into the game, built the margin to 20 with three minutes left in the first half and took a 34-10 edge into halftime.
And they did it against a 7-0 team that was winning by an average of 26 points per game. The Redhawks scored 67 points in a 27-point win over Willmar on Friday to open the Wild-Card tourney.
“I don’t have an answer,” Dreier said. “They looked unstoppable yesterday and they just dominated that game. We got off to a good start and maybe that affected them.”
The victory itself wasn’t shocking, however, considering that the Wildcats are ranked No. 9 in Class AA and improved to 9-0 with the victory.
Solid teams like NLS do their homework and the Wildcats took notice during the Redhawks’ win over Willmar on Friday.
“We knew we were in for something so we were prepared,” said Thunstedt, who led the Wildcats with 22 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. “From watching them yesterday, we knew what we had to do better against them.”
That included limiting the Redhawks’ looks on the perimeter, keeping close tabs on top player Nicole Nipper and hitting the boards, Kieft said.
“We stuck with our 2-3 zone but we changed it up defensively to stick with (Nipper),” Kieft said. “We knew they could really shoot from the outside.”
Mission accomplished. Minnehaha Academy, which put up 79 shots against Willmar, managed to hit just 10 of 52 shots and made only three of 25 3-point attempts.
“It’s hard for me to think of all our games at once but that certainly was as good a defensive game as we’ve played this year,” Dreier said.
The Wildcats’ task now will be building on an uplifting victory, especially during a season when they will meet relatively unknown opponents in their first campaign in the Wright County Conference.
The Wildcats will see familiar faces when they host former West Central Conference opponent Benson on Jan. 3. After that comes three straight weeks of conference play.
“I think playing this kind of game will get us ready for the conference schedule,” Thunstedt said. “There are going to be a lot of tough games.”
“It will be very interesting,” Dreier said. “We face a lot of unknowns.”
New London-Spicer 57,
Minnehaha Academy 25
Minnehaha Acad. (7-1).... 10 15 — 35
MINNEHAHA ACADEMY – 10-52 FG (3-25 3-pt); 2-2 FT; NA rebounds; 14 fouls … Scoring: Olivia West 4, Sarah Kaminski 10, Nicole Nipper 7, Maddie Johnson 4 … 3-point shots: 3-25 … Rebound leaders: NA … Assist leaders: NA … Steal leaders: NA
NEW LONDON-SPICER – 22-43 FG (6-17 3-pt); 7-12 FT; 26 rebounds; 7 fouls … Scoring: Taylor Thunstedt 22, Lydia Kieft 8, Tori King 1, Alyssa Fredrick 2, Megan Thorson 6, Brianna Fredrick 8, Petra Lothert 1, Ashlyn Geister 7, Olivia Setterberg 2 … 3-point shots: 6-17 … Rebound leaders: Kieft 6, Jessica Johnson 5, Geister 4 … Assist leaders: Thunstedt 5, B.Fredrick 4 … Steal leaders: Thunstedt 4, B.Fredrick 2