College hoops team show promise

Junior college basketball in Minnesota has the luxury of a month-long stretch of 10 to 12 games to sort things out before division play begins in the new year.

Junior college basketball in Minnesota has the luxury of a month-long stretch of 10 to 12 games to sort things out before division play begins in the new year.

Shawn Kopischke, the first-year coach of the Ridgewater Warriors, welcomes every minute of the "exhibition season." He's sorting through 13 players new to him, along with his younger brother, Nate, a lanky 6-6 freshman, and Jake Meyer, a brawny post who followed Shawn from St. Scholastica.

The former assistant coach already has been tested.

Wesley Kitt had averaged 18 points at Highland (Kan.) College and a half-dozen assists. The wiry, 6-foot-1 guard had a happy-go-lucky attitude and a penchant to freelance playground style.

Kopischke benched him during games when he tried to take the game into his own hands. Finally, he sat him down for three games.


"There were several issues," said Kopischke after Monday's win over St. Scholastica. "On court and academics. Now, he's working harder in practice and seems to have really bought into the program."

On some teams, Kitt would be the main man. But this team is loaded with good players that can handle the ball and shoot. With 10 substitutes on the bench, there's been no lack of hustle.

Without a big front line, the Warriors may find it hard to stop some teams, but even with a record of 4-6, this team still has the look of a contender.

Lady Warriors

For Carrie Ogdahl, the pre-Christmas run-up has enjoyed a tailwind. The Lady Warriors (6-3) are undefeated in five games against junior college foes and have a win over NJCAA Division I North Dakota State College of Science. They also lost earlier to NDSCS in a flat performance at Wahpeton. The two losses to senior college junior varsities came with a piecemeal team before the injection of seven players off the national runners-up in volleyball.

One reason for its domination is the front line of Sarah Primus, Terra Billiet and Jamie Munson. All three are sophomores who won't get pushed around. Primus missed her senior year in high school because of injury but found new life here a year ago as a freshman starter. Monson played on the perimeter at Westbrook/Walnut Grove. Ogdahl deploys the 5-9 forward inside where her swiftness and athleticism make up for a height disadvantage.

Billiet didn't attract a lot of attention in high school (Lac qui Parle Valley). But Ogdahl encouraged her to try basketball here.

She's a pillar in the middle that opponents can't budge. "We need to get her 15 shots a game," said Ogdahl. "She's deceptively quick. People bounce off her but she can move, too."


In her second year she's become more dedicated to the game, says Ogdahl, and a leader unafraid to let the girls know what's expected of them.

On the fly

Lady Warriors' sophomore guard Jenny Cunningham has missed two games after rolling her ankle in the second half of the win over North Dakota State College of Science. She expects to be ready this weekend at Brainerd.

The news is not so good for sophomore gymnast Brooke Feichtinger, who will have knee surgery Dec. 23. She ruptured her ACL on a vault-landing in the opener. The all-arounder was one of two returning letterwinners.

Two members of the cross-country ski team were inadvertently left off the Nordic boys roster in the preview. They are Tom LaPatka and Michael Cola, both eighth-graders.

A pair of sisters (or brothers) on the court is not too unusual but two pair? On Thursday and again Saturday, at times, senior Laura Nielsen and junior Lisa Nielsen, plus senior Andrea Brown and sophomore Megan Brown made up four-fifths of the Willmar team against St. Cloud Tech and Brainerd.

One of the most exciting players in the Central Lakes Conference will be here Friday when Fergus Falls (4-0) takes on the Cardinal girls (43-1). Heather Draxten, just a sophomore, leads the Otters in scoring. She had 28 points and 12 rebounds in a 66-62 win over Sartell on Dec. 6. The 6-footer had 22 in Saturday's win over Rocori.

The Garfield rinks are open, two weeks ahead of most recent years.


Concordia (Moorhead) sophomore guard Emily Swierenga is averaging 15 minutes, three points and three rebounds for the Cobbers (4-2), who beat St. Olaf 78-73 for their third straight win.

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