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Section girls basketball: Minneota anxious for rematch with Wabasso

MARSHALL — There is never a loss for incentive when a state tournament berth dangles within reach.

The Minneota Vikings have even more incentive tonight when they play Wabasso for the Section 3A girls basketball championship. Their only loss of the 2013-14 season was handed to them by the Wabasso Rabbits — which erased their dream of compiling a perfect season.

The Minneota-Wabasso rematch is set to begin at 8 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Also at Southwest Minnesota State today, Redwood Valley and Fairmont square up in a 5 p.m. start for the Section 3AA crown. And at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Marshall and Hutchinson contend for the Section 2AAA title in a 7 p.m. contest.

Wabasso beat Minneota — the defending state Class A champion — 51-49 in Wabasso on Feb. 17. The Vikings have not forgotten.

“We just kind of feel like the last time we played ‘em we executed poorly on both ends. They definitely outplayed us,” said Minneota head coach Chad Johnston on Wednesday. The Rabbits shot the ball well, he said, and the Vikings were “caught standing around.”

Johnston guaranteed there would be no lack of motivation tonight.

“The dream was the perfect season. We thought we could do that this year,” he said. “Wabasso kind of ruined that. (Our players) obviously want to get back to the state tournament, but they also want to prove that they’re a better team than they showed the first time they played Wabasso.”

The Vikings are led by junior post Taylor Reiss, who averages 23 points per game and has scored more than 2,000 points in her career. The team’s best outside shooter, Emily Stienessen, recently surpassed the thousand-point mark but struggled from three-point range in the first meeting with Wabasso. To win the rematch, Johnston says his team will need to prevent the Rabbits’ outside shooters from getting wide open. The Vikings will also need to be better in their transition game.

Wabasso is typically a zone team but it played man-to-man defense against Minneota in February to get hands in the faces of the Vikings’ outside shooters.

Minneota, 29-1, is coming off a 62-39 victory over Canby in the section semifinals. Wabasso, 24-2, lost only to Springfield (60-59) and Cedar Mountain-Comfrey (46-41) in back-to-back setbacks on Feb. 11 and Feb. 14, and defeated Southwest Christian 56-52 in its last sectional contest.

Johnston says he expects another tough contest with Wabasso tonight, but he sees no reason why the result can’t be different.

“We were able to handle them twice last year. And we’ve got the same group back,” he said.

Cards versus Cards

It will be a battle of Cardinals in the Section 3AA championship as Redwood Valley and Fairmont go at it. Redwood Valley owns an 18-9 record and four of those losses occurred against Class AAA Southwest Conference opponents Marshall at Worthington. Redwood defeated Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop 55-50 in overtime, Montevideo 54-48 and BOLD 65-53 in postseason play to set up today’s meeting with Fairmont.

Fairmont is 25-4, having won nine of its last 10 games.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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