The Four-Point Play: Hopes high for four area teams

The Four-Point Play is a weekly look into four of the top storylines in area prep basketball. A few hours after Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles deemed the Minnesota Vikings top-ranked defense helpless and decisively eradicated a state's ho...

The Four-Point Play is a weekly look into four of the top storylines in area prep basketball.

A few hours after Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles deemed the Minnesota Vikings top-ranked defense helpless and decisively eradicated a state's hopes at playing in a Super Bowl on home turf, I sat in front of my TV and watched the local news.

Each station had sent reporters to bars, movie theaters and just about anywhere else where the dulcet tones of Joe Buck were piped through to a large gathering of purple-clad fans in anticipation of capturing the scene and interviewing fans if the Vikings were headed to their first Super Bowl since 1977. Instead, what those stories turned into by the time the 10 o'clock news came around was a collection of Vikings fan talking about what a great season it was, how the Minneapolis Miracle got everyone's hopes up, how Sunday's performance crushed said hopes and so on.

Now I'm no native Minnesotan, but live here for a year and you become well-acquainted with the stories of sports despair-save for the Lynx, of course.

Wide left, the Yankees times four, Brett Favre throwing across his body, wide left (again). It's all created an undertone of impending doom, but, as someone with no attachment to the purple, something seemed different last week.


The Skol chants, both scheduled and impromptu. The Vikings jerseys at every turn. The #BringItHome hashtag. While perhaps there was still an underlying feeling of inevitable disappointment, it all still brimmed with confidence that Minnesota would be playing to win its first Lombardi Trophy, and doing so at US Bank Stadium.

But then 38-7 to seven happened, and all of the hopes that had dared to surface were crushed.

So what's the next thing to get hopeful over?

Sure, there are the Timberwolves and baseball season is right around the corner, but this here is a prep basketball column so I'll stick to the brand.

If you're looking to get your hopes up in a local team once again, then, boy do I have the thing for you: Presenting four area hoops teams that have shown that fans can go all-in with.

Go ahead, get your hopes up-if you dare.

Willmar boys and girls

Why they can make a run:


Okay, yes, I'm cheating here by fitting both Cardinals teams under the same branch, but the show must go on.

Generally speaking, not losing is optimal for any team. Only 12 teams in the state remain undefeated between boys and girls basketball, and two of those squads are from Willmar.

The Cardinals girls opened the 2002-03 season with a 26-0 record while the boys went 23-0 to start a season in both 1928-29 and 1953-54, but never before have both teams still remained undefeated this late in the season. There is clearly something special going on in Willmar, and Cardinals fans are taking notice by flocking to the Big Red Gym.

Both teams are alone in first place in the Central Lakes Conference and currently in position for the top seed in Section 5AAA.

Earning the one-seed would require the No. 3-ranked Cardinals girls to win just two games to make it back-to-back state tournament appearances. We'll see where Willmar (No. 4 QRF) stands against the next-best team in its section, Zimmerman (No. 29), when they face off on Friday.

Section 5AAA presents a bigger challenge on the boys side, where Monticello and Delano are both among the top teams in Class AAA with Division I players leading the way.

The good news for Willmar is that, to this point, neither the girls nor boys teams have gotten caught looking too far ahead-even if this column does so.

BOLD Girls


Why they can make a run:

A combination of a talented team with a dominant offense and a wide-open section tilt the scales in BOLD's favor.

Forward Makenna Steffel leads the charge on both ends of the floor. Steffel averages a double-double as a force in the paint and on the glass while her length and athleticism causes opponents problems at the center of the Warriors press.

The junior is just hitting her stride this season, as well, with three triple-doubles in a five-game stretch over the last two weeks.

Then you add in Taylor Sagedahl, Brenna Weis, Abby Sigurdson and more, and you have the makings of a tough out come postseason play.

BOLD has won 14 of its last 15 games and will battle for the top seed in Section 2A North with Sleepy Eye and Sleepy Eye-St. Mary's, which will be an important advantage as the winner of that sub-section will likely be headed to state.

Lac qui Parle Valley girls

Why they can make a run:


The Eagles did it last season, returned nearly all of their scoring from that team and have taken their play a step further this season.

At 16-2, LQPV is ranked No. 7 in Class A by Follow the Rock and No. 10 according to QRF. The Eagles are on their way to another Camden Conference title game appearance, which is, in itself, a notable accomplishment. In Section 3A, they are among the favorites along with Minneota (No. 18), Southwest Minnesota Christian (No. 22), Wabasso (No. 26) and Hills-Beaver Creek (No. 28).

What the Eagles now feature is a stronger defense and a more versatile offense.

LQPV averages just 42.5 points per game against so far this season, down from a 50.9 mark en route to a 20-10 finish and run to the section title game in 2016-17. The team's experience playing together as a group has certainly come through on that side of the ball.

Offensively, while 2,000-point scorer Kelsea Lund continues to shoot down opponents from the perimeter, forward Grace Hegland and center Lindsay Kranz have taken a step forward as post scorers. Along with fellow junior Haley Wollschlager, both players have the ability to help carry the offense on nights when Lund's shots aren't falling at their normal frequency.

Hancock boys

Why they can make a run:

Anytime that you can feature one of the top two scorers in the state, you're going to be a tough out for any opponent. Them's just the rules.


Add in the fact that the Owls have already beaten the two other top teams in their section this year, Parkers Prairie and Ortonville, and you've got yourself a team with a real shot at the program's first state appearance since 2003.

Averaging around 35 points per game, Noah Kannegiesser's realistic ability to go off for 40 points on any given night would certainly make for a game-planning nightmare coming section play.

That scoring prowess works on multiple levels, as well. Defenses devote much of their attention to limiting Kannegiesser, doubling him off of screens and collapsing in the paint, which often leaves shooters like Bennett Nienhaus wide open on the perimeter.

And if the shots are falling for Kannegiesser's supporting cast, watch out.

What To Read Next
Get Local