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Arrows facing familiar foe in Redwood Valley

WORTHINGTON -- The Pipestone Area Arrows have become road warriors throughout this season.

The Arrows bring a 20-5 record into Friday's Section 3AA girls' basketball championship and of those five losses, four were at home.

One of those losses was to Southwest Conference foe Redwood Valley -- the same opponent PA will face Friday.

"It's the opposite of the way it should be," PA head coach Jay Johnson said. "Of our losses this season, I think right now we're 20-5, four of our five losses are at home.

"We enjoy playing on the road, we really do. (The players) seem a little bit more mentally focused when they play on the road. I don't know exactly what it is, but we've been having very good fortunes on the road this year."

In the first meeting between the Cardinals (19-8) and the Arrows, it was PA which came out with a 63-51 victory in Redwood Falls.

In the second meeting, the Arrows suffered a 57-56 loss at home.

Now, the teams will meet for a third time -- in the biggest game of the year so far.

"I think that's absolutely fine," Johnson said. "Having split the games on the season, I think both teams should feel that they have an equal shot at winning this game. I think it's going to be who plays the best defense, who rebounds the ball the best and who shoots well. At this point in the season, we're one of those teams that's fortunate enough to still be playing. We think we have just as equal opportunity as Redwood and we're looking forward to getting on the floor and having some fun."

With a conflict at Southwest Minnesota State, the games were moved to Montevideo, with the 3AA championship game slated for 8 p.m.

Playing on a big stage in a different environment, Johnson looks to Bailey Bouman and Megan Vanderpoel to lead the Arrows.

"It's important that they are people who are constantly conveying the ideas and feelings of what to expect when you enter that type of the environment," Johnson said. "It doesn't help anybody that we're going to play on a completely foreign court. Going to a different location, we don't know how the crowd is going to be involved in the game, so there are some of those factors that might play a different role."

Bouman and Vanderpoel were each a major part of PA's state championship run two seasons ago.

"Bailey and Megan are people that have to make sure they help the younger kids understand the pressure involved and the pressure they are probably going to go through," Johnson said. "Once again, just continue to lead by example if nothing else."

While Bouman and Vanderpoel will look to lead the Arrows, it's been Kelsey Guetter who has led the Cardinals in the previous two games against PA.

Guetter scored 20 points in PA's win, and followed with a 17-point performance in RV's victory. Both were team-highs.

"I think she's a problem for everybody," Johnson said of Guetter. "She's a smart player and positions herself well to get herself in the right spot at the right time in the game. She plays strong near the basket."

In a big game, Johnson doesn't see either team changing much.

"We're one of those teams, just like anybody else at this point in the season, you can't drastically change anything you've done," Johnson said. "There are 16 teams left in Class AA in the state, and you get to this point and you're not going to drastically change things up. You're not going to screw up the rhythm that you've established, whether it be offensively or defensively."

With both games close, and with the added intensity of a section final, Friday night's game has the promise of a classic matchup.

"We feel that us and Redwood are very much so on equal playing ground at this point," Johnson said. "The record is 0-0 and when the ball is thrown up, there will be a lot of nerves on both sides for the kids. But once the ball is thrown up, a lot of the nerves will be taken care of and the kids will just go out and play hard."