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Women's college basketball: Local fans trip to see Alwal 'fantastic'

David Samson / The Forum North Dakota State’s Miki Stephenson and Mississippi State’s Martha Alwal battle for position under the basket Tuesday at the Bison Sports Arena.

FARGO, N.D. — Warm and toasty feelings that emanated through the Bison Sports Arena Tuesday night have not yet dissipated. Local sports fans who watched former Worthington Trojans standout Martha Alwal perform are using words like “amazing” and “inspirational” to describe what they saw.

On Tuesday night, Alwal’s Mississippi State women’s basketball team played the North Dakota State Bison, and approximately 60 of Alwal’s fans from Worthington were in attendance.

“It was so much fun. The atmosphere was amazing,” said Sarah Cham on Wednesday.

Cham is one of Martha’s best friends. They graduated high school together in 2011 where they were basketball teammates beginning in the middle school years. Last December, Sarah took a trip to Mississippi to see her friend play.

On Wednesday Cham remained impressed over the “monster block” her friend made in the Bulldogs’ 72-62 victory over the Bison. There was plenty more to cheer about as Alwal finished the game with 25 points and 15 rebounds. She had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the second half alone and her personal cheering section — located behind the Mississippi bench —chanted her name during the game’s final minute.

“It was exciting for me. I had a blast out there,” Alwal was quoted by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead newspaper.

The bus trip was organized by Beth Prins and family, and Cham said it was a five-hour trip that “went by fast” because snacks, water and trivia games were provided along the way.

During the game, Cham said, it was hard to tell who was more energized — Alwal or her Worthington supporters.

“When you know that all these other people are cheering for you and want what’s best for you, it’s not just a good feeling for her, it’s also a great feeling for everyone who knows her and cares about her,” Cham said.

While a Trojan, the 6-2 Alwal set a school record of 284 blocks, averaging 5.6 per game during her senior campaign. She scored 1,079 points in two-plus seasons and established a school record with 928 rebounds. Last March, she became the second Mississippi State University player to win the C. Spire Gillom Trophy, which is presented to the top female college basketball player in Mississippi.

In her second year at Mississippi State, the sophomore ranked second in the league in blocked shots while leading her team in scoring with 12.1 points per game.

Pam Bruse, a family friend who also took the bus trip, said watching Alwal in Fargo “was absolutely fabulous. I’m so excited to see Martha go so far and make Worthington proud. … She had a great start here in Worthington and just has continued to excel.”

Lydia Kemper, who was a sophomore on the WHS varsity basketball team when Alwal was a senior, also watched her friend play in Fargo Tuesday night. Kemper, now a member of the Minnesota West Lady Jays, said she wasn’t surprised to see Alwal doing so well in the college game.

“It was really fun (watching her play),” Kemper said. “I hadn’t seen her play since high school, and it amazes me to see how athletic she is and how much she’s improved from high school ball.”

Kemper remembers that Alwal didn’t seem particularly motivated during high school. If so, that’s changed.

“She’s gotten so much better,” said Kemper, adding, “I find her inspirational. She’s a good role model. She shows that you can do it if you put your mind to it, if you motivate yourself.”

Kemper said the NDSU section was surprised to see so many people show up in support of Mississippi State on Tuesday night. The Worthington crowd wasn’t difficult to notice. Many of them wore T-shirts with the words “Martha’s Bulldogs” on the front and “Alwal, No. 10” on the back.

“She was so happy to see everyone there,” Kemper said.

Cham said looking back on Alwal’s career in high school, some might say she didn’t apply herself to the best of her ability. “But now she’s really taken a lot of responsibility. She’s a team leader. You can see it on the court. She seems fired-up when she plays.”

In a Daily Globe story from last year, Alwal credited her coach, Vic Schaefer, with helping her become the best she could be and refusing to let her cut corners in practice. Part of her development, she said, could be traced to Schaefer challenging her to become a team leader and go-to player.

Cham says that another inspiration in Alwal’s life has been her family. She is the second oldest of six children and she wants to be a good role model for her younger siblings.

Martha is a good role model for lots of people, says Kemper, who calls her “the most unselfish person you’d ever meet. Back then (during her growing-up years) she was always like that, and she always will be.”

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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