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Girls basketball: Marshall, Redwood Valley, Minneota get set for state tourney

MINNEAPOLIS — There are two Southwest Conference teams performing this week in the Minnesota State Girls Basketball Tournament. And neither one of them is Worthington.

The Trojans, 21-2 at the time, were upset by sixth-seeded Willmar in the first round of the Section 2AAA tournament two weeks ago. And so, it was Marshall — the only team to beat WHS during the regular season — that qualified for state from Section 2AAA.

It would have been impossible, of course, for both Marshall and Worthington to qualify for state since both teams perform in the same section. But some might still find it ironic that the Redwood Valley Cardinals, who lost to Worthington 54-39 and 67-50 in regular season contests, will compete this week in the big event.

The Section 3AA champion Cardinals open at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota against Kenyon-Wanamingo in the Class AA quarterfinals. Marshall opens Wednesday at noon at Mariucci against Chisago Lakes Area. A third team from the region, Minneota, begins Class A competition at 11 a.m. Thursday against Browerville at Mariucci.

Redwood Valley (19-9) earned its state berth with a 49-42 win over Fairmont in the Section 3AA finals. Head coach Trevor Wittwer says his Redwood team possesses no standout player but several solid individuals capable of having a breakout game at any time. Good zone defense has fueled the team’s late-season run. Wittwer says a couple of his players are “long and athletic,” which allows them to cover a lot of space.

Was it a surprise that the Cardinals made state?

“It was really a surprise for people who aren’t internally connected with the team,” Wittwer said Monday afternoon.

During the season the Redwood Valley coaching staff impressed upon the Cardinals that, with hard work, good things could happen. “(The players) just managed to bring it together at the end of the season,” Wittwer maintained.

Lauren Hanson, a junior guard, leads the Cardinals with an 11-points-per-game scoring average. Several of her teammates range between five and eight points per contest.

The Cardinals appear unsatisfied with merely getting to state. Wittwer says the team matches up well with Kenyon-Wanamingo (29-1), a team known for its quality shooting and up-tempo style. As for the Trojans being out and the Cardinals being in, Wittwer waxes philosophical.

“Sometimes it’s who you get in your same section,” he said.

In Class AAA, Marshall (28-1) faces a Chisago Lakes Area team (22-6) making its third straight state appearance. Senior Bryanna Fernstrom averages 26 points and 13 rebounds per game. Marshall has more balance, with Sarah Buysse scoring 14.1 points per contest, Kenzie Beekman averaging 13.5 and Hannah Bennett averaging 11.1.

In Class A, Minneota (30-1) enters state tournament play having beaten Wabasso in the Section 3A finals, which avenged its only regular season setback. The Vikings are the defending Class A champions, and in Browerville (23-5), they face an unranked first-round opponent. Taylor Reiss is Minneota’s all-time leading scorer and averages 24 points per game in her senior season.

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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