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Hancock, Ada-Borup meet in 6A girls basketball final

Getting deep into the playoffs is nothing new for the Hancock girls basketball team. The Owls have been a perennial section contender for many years.

Tonight at Concordia College in Moorhead, Hancock will meet Ada-Borup for the first time in three years when the Owls, then ranked No. 2 in the state, lost to the Cougars in the Section 6A championship, 60-50. Top-ranked Ada-Borup went on to win the Class A state title that year.

"I remember that game like it was yesterday," said Hancock coach Jodi Holleman. "It was unfortunate that the sections were realigned that year and that both teams ended up in the same section. We knew in our hearts that this was the state championship game and whoever won that game would move on to the state title game."

That win for Ada-Borup avenged a loss to Hancock in the state semifinals the previous year.

Now it's Hancock that has waited three years for a chance to avenge its loss to Ada-Borup, which has three players from the championship team on its roster.

The Owls are unranked in the latest Class A poll, while Ada-Borup is ranked No. 8.

Hancock won its first two playoff games despite not shooting the ball like it has been most of the season.

"It is critical that we shoot the ball well," said Holleman. "We have not shot the ball well yet in any of our playoffs games."

As a team, the Owls are shooting 47 percent on two-pointers, 35 percent on three-pointers and 73 percent from the free-throw line this season. But those numbers have dipped in the post-season.

"If we can reach those averages (against Ada-Borup)," said Holleman, "we have a great shot at winning the game. We need to get off to a great start and get our presses going immediately. We can only allow on shot on each possession."

Hancock is led in scoring by Kendra Schmidgall, a 6-foot-2 junior center and a three-year starter. She averages 15.5 points and eight rebounds per game. Illissa Koehl, a 5-7 senior guard, is close behind at 15.0 ppg.

On the other side, Taylor Kujava, a junior forward, averages 18 points and nine rebounds per game. She can score from the outside or by driving to the basket.

"We will need to stop their fast-break buckets in transition and contain Kujava," said Holleman. "And we need to keep the Kolness sisters (Katie, a senior forward, and Megan, a sophomore forward) off the boards."

With Schmidgall and 5-10 junior forward Abby Ascheman, the Owls have a definite height advantage on the Cougars, whose tallest player is only 5-8.

"We have had success against taller team because we do a pretty good job boxing out and getting good position," said Ada-Borup coach David Smart. "If we don't, we know out chances of success are very limited. We have to be disciplined defensively every possession."

While the Owls are averaging 56.3 points per game this season and the Cougars 56.9, both teams focus more on the defensive side of the ball. To emphasize the importance of defense, Holleman has posted a giant "D", followed by a fence in the gym. On it, is a jersey of each opposing team they've faced and the number of points that team scored against the Owls.

"The girls take great pride in trying to keep all of our opponents under 40 points," said Holleman. "It was huge keeping Parkers Prairie to 37 points (in Hancock's 40-37 section semifinal win) when they came in averaging 66 points per game."

The Owls average 36.5 points allowed per game, including limiting opponents to 40-or-fewer points 17 times. The Cougars are even better, averaging 32.6 points allowed and 19 games allowing 40-or-fewer points.

Ada-Borup, with only two seniors on the team. enters tonight's game averaging 57 points per game.

"We will have to be able to handle (Hancock's) press," said Ada-Borup coach David Smart. "And they are very good at it, but we have no problem with low-scoring games. We just have to try to attack (the press) and limit our turnovers."

If you like watching the ball go through the basket, this might not be the game for you.