Tom Elliott: A showdown waiting to happen: Montevideo vs. NLS girls basketball

The teams meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 and the winner likely will be the favorite in the Section 3AA-North playoffs

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New London-Spicer senior guard Avery Rich leaps up for a layup attempt against Paynesville on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, at New London-Spicer High School in New London.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

It was supposed to happen in December before Christmas, were it not for the crazy-bad weather that the area dealt with.

Instead, it's happening at 7 p.m. Thursday at New London and will be worth the price of admission (on-line tickets only) for area girls basketball followers.

Defending Section 3AA champion Montevideo, ranked 11th in the state in Class AA, meets perennial powerhouse New London-Spicer, ranked second in the state.

It's a non-conference game among two of the state's top teams, not to mention the West Central Tribune area's top two squads.

The winner will have the inside track on the top seed in Section 3AA-North. And the loser will have plenty of motivation if there's a rematch, which is likely.


One or the other are the area's best bets to make the state girls basketball tournament March 15-18 in Minneapolis.

NLS has put together an impressive season so far, posting a 15-0 record heading into the weekend. The Wildcats are 4-0 in Section 3AA games and have a QRF power ranking of No. 7 in Class AA.

Montevideo is 12-2 and has a 6-0 section record.

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Montevideo senior post Avery Koenen makes a free throw during the Thunder Hawks' season-opener against Central Minnesota Christian School on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at Montevideo High School.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

NLS has a strong senior class led by guards Avery Rich and Jaden Coahran, forwards Kaylee Thorson and Ellary Peterson and center Katelynn Tortorella. Tortorella, a 6-foot-1, is the only player on the varsity roster over 5-10.

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The Wildcats win my minimizing mistakes, playing excellent zone defense and generally shooting the lights out. They are an excellent outside shooting team, led by Avery and Dakota Rich. They pass the ball well, finding the open player.

Montevideo has one of the best players in Class AA in Avery Koenen. She's a 6-foot-3 post headed to North Dakota State. Fellow seniors Hailey Dirksen, a 6-0 senior, and Tenley Epema, a 5-9 senior, also are college-bound. Dirksen is headed to Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. Epema is headed to the University of Jamestown in North Dakota.

That's as good a trio on one team as you'll find in Class AA.

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BOLD junior Kenzie Visser attempts a layup against Sauk Centre on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at BOLD High School in Olivia.
Michael Lyne / West Central Tribune

The area also has some really good Class A teams. BOLD's one of the favorites in Section 2A-North, right there with No. 2 Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart (14-0) and No. 4 Mayer Lutheran (12-2). BOLD has a No. 6 QRF power rating and is 12-3 in what is likely the best sub-section in the state in Class A.


Here are recent stories by Tom Elliott.
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa beats Hayfield 65-54 Saturday to wrap up its Class A state tournament appearance
Warriors add a 2nd-place girls basketball trophy to an impressive collection of state accomplishments in multiple sports
Wildcats beat Perham 65-38 to go 2-1 in the state Class AA tournament
BBE wanted a state title, but couldn't knock off No. 1 Mountain Iron-Buhl in the Class A semifinals, falling 61-57
Warriors follow a familiar formula to knock off United Christian Academy at state, 67-29. Third-seeded BOLD plays second-seeded Hayfield at 2 p.m. Friday in the Class A semifinals at Williams Arena
Fifth-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa beats fourth-seeded Underwood 60-44 to earn a rematch with No.1 Mountain-Iron Buhl at noon Friday at Williams Arena
Wildcats are held to 8 points in final 18 minutes in a 50-28 loss to Minnehaha Academy at the state Class AA tournament at Williams Arena
Instead of making the state tournament the No. 1 goal, the Warriors aimed to keep their outstanding team chemistry intact
Fifth-seeded Jaguars hope to be aggressive against No. 4 Underwood in state Class A quarterfinals
Minnehaha Academy is a talented and experienced opponent in the Class AA quarterfinals

Section 3A-North looks like a battle between Lac qui Parle Valley (14-3, No. 15 QRF) and Minneota (11-4, No. 17), with Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (11-7, No. 50) and MACCRAY (11-6, No. 52) not far behind.

In Section 5A, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (12-3, No. 3 QRF) seems poised to make another run for a section title. BBE is the best team right now in 5A-West, with Nevis (12-2, No. 19) and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley (13-5, No. 35) close behind.

And in Section 6A-South, watch out for Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. KMS is 14-3 with a No. 25 QRF rating. Hancock is currently the top team in 6A-south with a 13-2 record and a No. 9 rating.

All this should make the rest of the season fun.

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