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Update: NLS falls in title game of Class AA girls basketball tourney

MINNEAPOLIS - The clock struck midnight on New London-Spicer's upstart tournament in jarring fashion in the Class AA Minnesota State Girls Basketball Tournament championship game Saturday.

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New London-Spicer's Brooke Beuning takes advantage of a Megan Thorson screen during the Class AA championship game of the Minnesota State Girls Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Jacob Kuyvenhoven | Tribune.

MINNEAPOLIS - The clock struck midnight on New London-Spicer's upstart tournament in jarring fashion in the Class AA Minnesota State Girls Basketball Tournament championship game Saturday.

Top-seed Plainview-Elgin-Millville hammered the unseeded Wildcats 72-42 at Williams Arena to claim their first state title as a merged school.

The Bulldogs scored the game's first 10 points, held a 16-3 lead early and headed into halftime up 39-14.

PEM junior center Emmaline Polson, who was named player of the game after putting up 22 points and 10 rebounds, equaled the Wildcats' 14 halftime points by herself.

"They're a better team than us," NLS head coach Mike Dreier said. "We just aren't as good as them."

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"I knew this game could potentially be trouble," he said. "We only saw them once before our game yesterday and then didn't get done until about 11 p.m. last night. It's just tough."

Megan Thorson led the Wildcats in scoring for the third game in a row, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds. Alyssa Fredrick hit all three of New London's shots from deep -- they were 3-of-17 -- and finished with nine points.

The Bulldogs forced 13 NLS turnovers in the first half and held them to 26 percent shooting from the field. The Wildcats registered one assist while PEM had 15.

"They have size, they're physical, they've got an (NCAA) Division I point guard running their offense from the high post, and they also have shooting everywhere," Dreier said. "Teams that can do all that tend to win state championships."

The guard in question, Sarah Hart, a St. Bonaventure University recruit and finalist for Minnesota's Ms. Basketball award, finished with 13 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

PEM head coach Jason Melbostad said Hart was the key to solving the NLS zone that had flummoxed the offenses of Sauk Centre and Minnehaha in the Class AA semifinals and quarterfinals.

"She's a true team player" he said. "She makes all the right plays and is so unselfish."

"When I get the ball there I can shoot myself, kick to another shooter or enter it to one of our big girls," Hart said. "They were taking away the option to drive but there were a lot of other ways to go after it."

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Hart's playmaking allowed the Bulldogs to do what other teams could not against NLS: get the ball to interior scorers.

"We knew we could go after them inside," said PEM sophomore center Hayley Dessner, who had eight points off the bench in the first half and finished with 10.

Dreier said fatigue may have played some role in the loss.

"I think there were some times where the girls' brains told them to do the right thing and their bodies didn't quite respond," he said.

But the winningest coach in Minnesota girls basketball history was soaking in his record 16th state tournament appearance nonetheless.

"What an incredible experience to be here, and we had a great run," Dreier said. "For a team that finished third in our conference, this is amazing."

"I don't know how many more chances I'm going to have at this," he said, "so I'm very grateful and my mood isn't any worse because of this loss."

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Patrons at O'Neil's in Spicer kept a close eye on the Class AA championship game featuring the local Wildcats on Saturday afternoon but chances to cheer were limited against the No. 1 Bulldogs, who justified their lofty perch with domineering play.

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