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Girls basketball: NLS can dead-end ’Streeters’ 6AA run

Tribune photo by Rand Middleton New London-Spicer stands tall near the basket, here pressing in on Eden Valley-Watkins’ six-foot center Dani Nelson on Tuesday at St. John’s are 5-10 Kabrie Weber, left, 5-11 Megan Thorson, center, and 5-11 Olivia Setterberg.

Through the 2009 season, Sauk Centre had never sent a team to the state girls basketball tournament.

Four years later, they have sent an entrant four times. Those teams have averaged 28 wins per season with a second- and third-place finish for the Mainstreeters’ trophy case.

New London-Spicer (23-5) stands in the way of a fifth straight crown. The teams meet at 6 p.m. tonight at Halenbeck Hall in St. Cloud.

The ’Streeters have won the last five meetings with NLS, three in the postseason. NLS last won at the end of the regular season in 2010, 45-41 at New London.

This matchup repeats last year’s 6AA championship claimed by Sauk 60-45 on March 8.

The ’Streeters graduated eight from last year’s 27-3 squad that lost in the first round to Minneapolis Washburn. But coach Scott Bergman remodeled, and this team is 22-5 and owners of the West Central Conference with a 13-1 record. The conference loss was in overtime to Montevideo, 75-74.

The ’Streeters’ last defeat was to Staples-Motley, 67-57, on Feb. 18, in Staples. They avenged that loss when it counted, scrubbing the Cardinals from the postseason 52-38 on Tuesday for the sub-section first-place plaque. Sauk also avenged an overtime loss to Osakis in the second round of postseason play.

New London-Spicer’s Class AAA weighted schedule puts it at No. 5 in the Minnesota Scores QRF while Sauk Centre is No. 16. Four of the Wildcats’ losses were to Class AAA teams while the other was to Annandale, which will play Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted in the Section 5AA title game following the Wildcats vs. ’Streeters clash.

With the offense misfiring the last two outings, the Wildcats’ offense has had to lean on its defense extra heavy. Both Minnewaska and Eden Valley-Watkins scored just 32 points against the Wildcats’ energetic 2-3 zone which can be especially hard on teams that rely on scoring inside. The Wildcats have a small forest of girls there who range 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1.

New London-Spicer is the last team other than Sauk Centre to win a Section 6AA title — in 2009 when the Wildcats went on to place third at state.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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