Curt Hogg is a sports reporter at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016.
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The Four-Point Play is a weekly look into four of the top storylines in area prep basketball, written by sports reporter Curt Hogg. Lac qui Parle Valley girls head coach John Nolte knew before the season started that he struck gold in taking over a talented, veteran group in his first year at the helm. But in case he needed any more evidence, finding himself at the prestigious Breakdown Invitational over the weekend in Minnetonka alongside many of the best teams in the state will work just fine.
Willmar's Noah Slagter peers over his left shoulder and points to the spot—the exact spot—where he once played a game of H-O-R-S-E with former Cardinals great Taylor Filipek. East side of the gymnasium, corner court. Slagter speaks of Filipek and other Willmar players past, like Jordan Smith and Sam Sussenguth, with a tone of reverence, as if still a kid in awe of his local heroes. He is reminded that, now, he is the Taylor Filipek to dozens of young Willmar basketball players who all lace up their shoes with hopes of becoming the next Noah Slagter.
At the end of each basketball season, the Tribune publishes its All-Area basketball teams to recognize the top players in the area, with five players from that group selected to the first team. Here are 10 players to keep an eye on to earn a spot on the All-Area first team in the 2017-18 season. Noah Kannegiesser Hancock Owls Senior guard
This is the first installment of the Four-Point Play, a weekly look into four of the top storylines in area prep basketball, written by sports reporter Curt Hogg. Death. Taxes. Willmar girls basketball playing tough defense. It may be an entirely new season of high school basketball, but some things remain completely unchanged.
WILLMAR - The Willmar boys hockey team was in the thick of things through two periods in its season-opener on Thursday night at the Willmar Civic Center despite facing a flurry of shots from Alexandria. Over the final period, those pucks began to find the back of the net, leading to a 5-1 win for Alexandria. Willmar goalie Gunnar Banks recorded an impressive 51 saves, but Alexandria's two first-period goals proved to be the difference. In that period, Alexandria recorded the first 13 shots of the game and led the shots on net category 19-6 entering the intermission.
You have almost surely heard of the 12 days of Christmas. The four calling birds and those 10 lords a-leaping? Yeah, we've traded those in for Shea Oman fast breaks and Carter Henry dunks. With the prep basketball regular season kicking off this week for both area boys and girls teams, let's look forward to the 70 days of hoops.
GROVE CITY — Morris/Chokio-Alberta may have found itself a new potent scoring tandem. Mallory Anderson scored 22 points and Maddie Carrington added 18 points as the pair accounted for all but 10 of the Tigers points in a 50-39 win over Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City to open up the 2017-18 season on Tuesday night. The Tigers received just five points from their two returning starters from last season's Section 3AA semifinalist team—Jenna Howden and Riley Decker. Anderson and Carrington made sure that would not be any problem against the Falcons.
If this year's All-Area team is any indication, the future of area football sure looks bright. Then again, so does the present. The team is full of new faces with no returning first-teamers and four players that made the jump from honorable mention to this season's first team. Eight of the 11 players will be back next year, as well, with six juniors, two sophomores on the team and just three seniors. There are the versatile playmakers, such as Paynesville's Zach Schroeder, New London-Spicer's Kelly Bennetts and BOLD's Gavin Vosika.
WILLMAR - The Willmar Stingers announced their first six signings for the 2018 Northwoods League season on Wednesday. All six players are returners to the Stingers from the 2017 team that won 41 games and reached the playoffs. The group is headlined by Concordia-St. Paul right-hander Gus Varland, who posted a 1.42 earned-run average in 50-2/3 innings with Willmar last season. Varland was named to both the Northwoods League midseason and postseason All-Star teams after finishing only behind teammate Polo Portela in earned run average.
MINNEAPOLIS - Paynesville head coach Max Meagher sat atop the dais in the media interview room located within the depths of U.S. Bank Stadium. He was asked to summarize what made Caledonia, the Bulldogs opponent in a Class AA semifinal for the previous two-plus hours, such a formidable opponent. The answer to the question was apparent from the score that hung from the expansive video boards engulfing entire concourses at both ends of the field: Caledonia 49, Paynesville 16. There was not much more to add to the equation.