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BL-Hector ready for first trip to Big Dance

In the past, talking about Buffalo Lake-Hector and the girls state basketball tournament in the same sentence is like putting ketchup on peas. It just isn't something that ever comes up in a conversation.

Until now. The Mustangs have put Buffalo Lake and Hector on the girls' hoops map for the first time, qualifying for today's Class A state tournament at Williams Arena. The Mustangs (26-4) open against Goodhue (23-7) at 11 a.m.

"This is going to be a tough test for us," said BLH coach Josh Tjosaas. "Goodhue is battled tested. They play in a tough Hiawatha Valley Conference with Rochester Lourdes and Dover-Eyota. It's an all double-A conference so they're used to going against tough teams every night."

BLH plays mainly a Class A schedule, but has also had some stellar opponents.

The Mustangs did knock off the state's top-ranked Class A team, Cedar Mountain/Comfrey, in the sub-section final, then upended Granada-Huntley-East Chain in the 2A championship to advance to the Big Dance.

"(Goodhue) likes to pressure the ball and will try to force us to turn the ball over," said Tjosaas. "We also like to use a full-court man defense on every team so it will come down to which team can protect the ball the best."

Goodhue coach Josh Wieme agreed.

"We have at times gotten sloppy with the ball, which has led to both turnovers and a stagnant offense," he said. "Going on a prolonged scoring drought will hurt our chances."

Goodhue has the experience of being at a state tournament. Many of the current players were on the varsity when the team qualified last year, although they lost in the quarterfinals.

"I think that experience will help them a little," said Tjosaas. "They won't have that element of surprise. And I don't think they will be intimidated at all."

BLH will have a height advantage on the Wildcats, especially at guard where 5-foot-11 Maija Mikkola (5.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 4.7 apg) usually faces a smaller defender and can also post up. Karlee Ilgen, a 5-10 junior forward, also poses problems with her strength and post moves. She leads the team with a 14.9 scoring average and is second in rebounds (7.6 rpg). Emily Kubesh, a 6-foot senior post, averages 8.8 points and 4.2 rebounds. Bobbie Uecker, a 5-8 senior forward, leads the team in rebounding (9.2 rpg) and averages 6 ppg. Nicole Horstman, a 5-4 senior guard, averages 7.3 points and Lynsey Runke, a 5-4 junior guard, averages 5.5 points.

"We are concerned about their size in general," said Wieme. "So not getting beat for offensive rebounds will be important. They appear to have a number of capable scorers so solid defense will be needed. We certainly have to keep Ilgen from having a huge game."

BLH averages 54.5 points per game and Goodhue averages 56 ppg.

Goodhue started off 2-6, but have won 21 of its last 22 games.

No one averages in double figures for the Wildcats. Grace Majerus, a 5-9 senior forward, leads the team in scoring (9.7 ppg) and rebounds (7.6 rpg). Courtney Hinsch, a 5-7 junior guard (7.8 ppg, 4.8 apg, 3 spg); Laura Watson, a 5-7 senior forward (7.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2 spg); Anne Lodermeier, a 5-7 junior forward (6.1 ppg, 3.4 apg, 2.4 spg); and Chanel Robert, a 6-2 junior center (5.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2 bpg) are the other starters. Erica Pipcke, a 5-10 sophomore forward (7.8 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.1 apg) is the first off the bench for the Wildcats.

The winner will advance to the semifinals at the Target Center at noon Friday. Since there is no consolation bracket anymore, the loser is out.