Girls basketball: NLS has work to do in 3AA-North

Top-seeded Wildcats must win two games for a possible showdown with Montevideo

NLS vs. Paynesville 012323.001.jpg
New London-Spicer senior guard Jaden Coahran (left) and Paynesville junior guard Emma Flanders (right) fight for possession of the basketball during a game between the Wildcats and Bulldogs on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at New London-Spicer High School in New London.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

The Section 3AA girls basketball seeds are in and New New London-Spicer sees itself listed as No. 1 in 3AA-North.

But veteran NLS coach Mike Dreier sees a lot of work ahead.

"It's going to be tough," Dreier said after the Wildcats beat Glencoe-Silver Lake 57-33 to sew up the Wright County Conference West Division title.

NLS heads into a regular-season finale against Litchfield with a 24-1 record and a No. 8 QRF power ranking in Class AA, according to Minnesota-Scores.Net. That puts the Wildcats just ahead of Montevideo, which earned the No. 2 seed and has a 20-3 record. And that's where Dreier sees one of a number of challenges. The Thunder Hawks beat NLS 41-26 last year in the 3AA-North Sub-Section championship on their way to the state tournament, where they finished sixth.

Montevideo lost to NLS 64-29 on Feb. 2 in New London. But the Thunder Hawks are experienced and led by three college-bound players. Avery Koenen, a 6-foot-3 post, leads the way. She's headed to Division I North Dakota State and recently joined a rare club. She has now scored 2,000 career points with 1,000 career rebounds.


Montevideo senior Avery Koenen, 22, looks to get by Sauk Centre's Madelyn Schuster during a West Central Conference game on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023 at Montevideo.
Montevideo senior Avery Koenen, 22, looks to get by Sauk Centre's Madelyn Schuster during a West Central Conference game on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023 at Montevideo.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Teammates Tenley Epema, who is headed to the University of Jamestown in North Dakota, and Hailey Dirksen, who is headed to Briar Cliff University in Iowa, also are top players.

NLS features outstanding guard play, led by Avery Rich and Jaden Coahran.

Both teams have a long way to go before playing each other in 3AA-North.

First-round games at 7 p.m. Saturday include No. 8 Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (5-19) at No. 1 NLS, No. 5 Paynesville (11-13) at No. 4 Litchfield (13-12), No. 6 West Central (9-130 at No. 3 Minnewaska (12-12) and No. 7 Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta (5-19) at No. 2 Montevideo.

Most teams have regular season games scheduled for Tuesday night, weather permitting.

Second-round matchups are Tuesday, Feb. 28 at Willmar High School, with the NLS/ACGC winner playing the Paynesville/Litchfield winner at 6 p.m. and the Minnewaska/West Central winner facing the Montevideo/Morris winner at 7:30 p.m.

Minnewaska would be the 3AA-North darkhorse, having won seven straight games after starting the season with seven straight losses.

In 3AA-South, No. 1 Luverne (22-3) is host to No. 8 Minnesota Valley Lutheran (1-22), No. 5 Windom (16-10) plays at No. 4 St. James (15-11), No. 6 Jackson County Central (11-12) travels to No. 3 Fairmont (13-10) and No. 7 Redwood Valley (9-16) goes to No. 2 Pipestone (16-7).


Like in 3AA-North, all games are 7 p.m. Saturday with the semifinals set for Tuesday, Feb. 28 at a neutral site with games at 6 p.m. and 7:3 p.m.

The 3AA-North final is 8 p.m. Thursday, March 2 at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. The 3AA-South final is 6 p.m. March 2 at SMSU.

The Section 3AA championship is 5 p.m. Friday, March 10 at SMSU. At stake is a berth a in the state Class AA tournament March 15-18. Class AA is played at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

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