Girls Basketball: NLS back in the hunt
Every season, teams emerge with state tournament dreams but the one constant is New London-Spicer's girls basketball team in the driver's seat with a spot in the section final.
The Wildcats return to the section final for the fifth time in as many seasons with their eyes set on their second straight trip to the state tournament. Their path to get there is a familiar one as well; Tracy-Milroy-Balaton is the last team between the Wildcats and a trip to state just as it was last year.
The game tips off at 5 p.m. on Friday in Marshall.
NLS defeated TMB 72-55 in last year's Section 3AA final but this year the Wildcats might be in an even better situation. Last season, they entered the section final with a four game win streak and a 22-6 record while this year head coach Mike Dreier's team is rolling. The Wildcats are on a 12 game win streak with a 25-3 record, earning a spot as the sixth-best team in Class AA according to Minnesota-scores' QRF rankings.
The Panthers also post an impressive 26-3 record but are not necessarily aided by momentum. TMB closed out the regular season with losses to Lac qui Parle Valley and Springfield, both Class A opponents, before winning three straight playoff games. Despite playing mostly Class A opponents throughout the season as part of the Camden Conference, the Panthers are undefeated (10-0) against Section 3AA opponents this season.
Basic statistics gives neither team a major advantage as NLS averages 62.2 points for and 45.7 against while TMB averages 60.8 points for and 44.9 points against. The Wildcats' advantage, however, is the team's ability to spread the ball and experience. All five starters average nine points per game or better and junior point guard Shea Oman leads the way with 14 points per game. All five also show a propensity to rebound or rack up assists as well. Oman leads the team with an average of 5.2 assists and 3.6 steals per game while senior forward Erin Tebben leads with 8.5 rebounds per game. Fellow senior forwards Kabrie Weber and Morgan Swenson also each average six rebounds per game or better.
As the season has gone on the Wildcats have found their shooting stroke as well. Senior guard Brooke Beuning, who averages 11.3 points per game, has seen her three-point field goal percentage creep up to 39.7 percent, just behind Weber's 40.1 percent.
The Panthers are led by junior Evelyn Dolan, a forward who surpassed 1,000 career points earlier this season. Junior guard Kaylee Kirk also knows how to stuff the stat sheet and sophomore guard Cassidy Smith works primarily as the team's facilitator.
New London-Spicer will enter Friday's game at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall with a defensive mindset having outscored their opponents by an average of 25 points in the playoffs.