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No 'go-to' player? No problem for NLS girls

Is it better to have a team with a "go-to" player or two, or a balanced team where anyone can lead you in scoring on a given night?

Mike Dreier, now in his 30th year as the New London-Spicer girls basketball coach, is seeing life from the balanced side and it hasn't exactly wreaked havoc on his career winning percentage.

The Wildcats don't have a player among the top 20 in the area in scoring at this stage of the season for the first time since the Tribune began running statistics over 25 years ago. Yet the Wildcats are 20-1 this season.

"I think there are advantages and disadvantages to having one or two 'go-to players' just as there are to not having a main weapon on the team," said Dreier. "A team can set out to stop your top player, but they can't if you have several different options. But it's nice to have a big-time scorer, too."

Five different players have led the team in scoring this season. Justine Dam-mermann has led nine times, Karli Wendlandt eight, Cassie Ziemer three, Taylor Thompsen two and Michele Hanson one. And only four times has a player hit 20-or-more points in a game this season -- Wendlandt has scored 23 and 21 and Dammermann hit 20 twice. Abbey Knisely and Brianna Jacobson have also scored in double figures in a game. Of course, it also helps when the Wildcats have had several lopsided games when the starters are relaxing on the pine for a significant portion of the game. Still, the Wildcats don't rely on one player for the bulk of the scoring.

"We have special plays at each position," said Dreier. "It all depends on what the defense is giving us."

Ten players average between 2 and 11 points per game for the Wildcats. Dammermann leads at 11.5 and Wendlandt averages just under 11.

So if NLS is trailing by one point with five seconds left in the game and Dreier calls a timeout, who gets the ball?

"I think it would really depend on the team we're playing, the defense, a lot of things," he said. "We might have a primary play called, but more often than not, we end up looking at the secondary option."

Dreier, who has 688 career wins, said he has always been accustomed to having a player or two on the team among the top scorers in the area.

But success by committee seems to be working well for him, too.

Felt a finalist for Mr. Basketball

Mike Felt of Redwood Valley is one of 15 finalists for the Mr. Basketball award for the second straight year. The senior guard leads the area in scoring with a 28.8 average and is also first in three-pointers made with 71.

Mike Bruesewitz, who transferred from Litchfield to Henry Sibley after his sophomore season, is also up for the award.

Four players from Hopkins -- Royce White, Mike Broghammer, Trent Lockett and Raymond Cowles -- are among the other 14 finalists. The others are Nate Wolters of St. Cloud Tech, Chris Halvorsen of Henry Sibley, Josh Figini of Chisago Lakes, Rodney Williams of Cooper, Sam Dower of Osseo, Tydan Storrusten of Pelican Rapids, Mike Muscala of Roseville, Jordair Jett of St. Bernard's and Marc Sonnen of Tartan.

Five finalists for Mr. Basketball will be named prior to the state tournament and the winner will be announced soon after the tournament. In the past, a banquet was held to honor the winner and other finalists. That has been discontinued.

After scoring 10 points Tuesday night against New Ulm, Felt is third all-time in the area in scoring with 2,181 career points. He trails Bob Bruggers, a 1962 graduate of Danube, who has 2,364 and Jon Hagen, a 1957 graduate of Belview, who has 2,198. 

Steinhaus closing in on area record

Kevin Steinhaus, a 160-pound senior from Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg, now has 228 career wins, seven shy of the area's all-time record of 235 set by Litchfield's Beau Penk in 2006. Steinhaus is seeking a third straight state title after winning the 145-pound crown in 2007 and 152-pound title last season. He is currently 32-0 this season. 

Redwood boys win Southwest hockey crown

The Redwood Valley boys hockey clinched the Southwest Conference title in oinly their fourth season with a hockey program. The Cardinals are 8-2 in the conference and 16-4-1 overall after going 10-14 last season.

The Cardinals beat Becker 6-1 on Tuesday night and play at Waconia tonight.

Redwood Valley was 0-17-2 in its first season with boys hockey. The Cardinals didn't get the program's first win until midway through the second season when they went 5-18.

Hanowski breaks state goal mark

Ben Hanowski of unbeaten Little Falls (22-0) broke the state's career goal-scoring record during the Flyers' 10-4 win over St. Cloud Apollo last Thursday.

Hanowski has 50 goals this season and 173 for his career, shattering Dave Spehar of Duluth East's record of 171. Hanowski is 12 points shy of also breaking the state's all-time points record set by Johnny Pohl of Red Wing. He has 96 points this season and 366 for his career.

Also, Flyers' goalie Michael Sperl has been in the nets for all 20 wins this season, has a 1.54 GAA, and leads the state with eight shutouts.

Little Falls plays at Willmar on Feb. 17.