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Montevideo, Windom to battle for 3AA boys title today

MARSHALL -- The Montevideo boys basketball team entered the 2008-09 season with a lot of things to get used to.

They had a new head coach, assistant Dan Douglas, who took over after Steve Rohloff resigned following last season's state Class AA tournament appearance.

There were also a number of new faces. Gone were varsity stalwarts Tyler Grey, Tramel Barnes and Nolan Jaspersen. Taking those places were freshmen and sophomores without a lot of big-game experience.

The Thunder Hawks answered a lot of questions this season. They finished second in the West Central South Conference behind Morris Area and are one win away from a return to the state tournament. The only team in Montevideo's way is Windom Area. The two will meet for the Section 3AA crown at 8 p.m. today at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

With the returning experience of seniors Eric Brandon, Jeff Jerve and Brock Ackerman, the Thunder Hawks weathered an early-season slump that saw them lose two of their first three games.

"In our case we were still trying to figure out exactly how we have to play to be successful against the tough competition that we play," said Douglas. "Our young kids were still figuring out how to play at the varsity level. Early in the season we relied a lot on Eric and Jeff as our young players were figuring out how to play at the varsity level. Now we know our roles and have accepted them. Teams can no longer just key on Eric and Jeff. That has made the difference in our tournament run."

Sophomores Ryan Boike and Brett Bergeson, along with freshman Jake Douglas, have improved quite a bit in the postseason. Boike made back-to-back three-pointers to lift Montevideo, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, past No. 1 MACCRAY Saturday. He and Bergeson lead the team in three-pointers made with 46 and 38, respectively.

Windom (17-10) is even younger than the Thunder Hawks, with only two seniors on the roster. The Eagles start one senior, two sophomores and two freshmen. The teams met Jan. 24 at Marshall with Windom taking a 47-46 win.

"Since we have played them this year we know them pretty well," Douglas said. "At this time of the year, everyone has a year of varsity basketball under their belts and Windom's freshman and sophomores are talented. The challenge is to find a way to be successful against their strengths.

"Windom's success in the tournament is because their guards are playing so much better. Everyone has tried to press them and their guards have handled it well. I think Windom is doing the same things they did before, just doing them at a higher level."