Luverne, Edgerton girls basketball traditions going strong
Lots of area high school girls basketball teams are lining up to move to the front of the line during the 2022-23 season
The communities of Luverne and Edgerton have for decades earned fame and acclaim because of basketball.
The tradition is expected to continue this winter for girls hoop fans.
The Luverne Cardinals of coach TJ Newgard and the Southwest Minnesota Christian Eagles of coach Luke Drooger each finished two wins short of earning state-tournament berths last winter. And both teams, which compete in Class AA and A, respectively, have excellent players returning this season.
Thus, many fans in our region have had Thursday, Dec. 1 circled on the calendar for awhile, as that’s the night Southwest Christian visits Luverne’s Classic Gym for a non-conference clash.
Senior twins Christina and Elizabeth Wagner lead Luverne. The 6-1 centers are double trouble for the opposition.
“What makes them tough is their ability to play both inside and outside,” Newgard said. “If they get a traditional post on them they’re pretty good out on the perimeter, but if you stick a guard on them they’re tall enough and skilled enough to score around the hoop.”
Elizabeth earned Globe first-team All-Area distinction last winter after averaging 20 points and eight rebounds for Newgard’s 22-5 team. Christina received Globe All-Area honorable mention status.
The Cardinals also have senior point guard Averill Sehr and senior guard Emma Beyer who return to the starting lineup. There is much talent throughout the roster, Newgard said.
“We’ve got seven seniors and seven juniors and I could see all 14 of them getting on the floor at some point,” Newgard said.
The Luverne girls program has qualified for just one state tournament, in 1975. Newgard, who is in his ninth season, is optimistic his squad might make a little history this season.
“I’d say this team, top to bottom, is probably one of the best ones we’ve ever had,” he said.
The Jackson County Central Huskies, Pipestone Area Arrows and Windom Area Eagles are also Big South West teams hoping to challenge the likes of Luverne, Marshall and Worthington.
Jackson is led by Maci Farmer, a splendid all-around athlete who was a first-team Globe All-Area selection. She averaged 20 points, eight boards, three assists and 3.5 steals and has already scored more than 1,260 points in her great career.
Pipestone, which enjoyed an excellent volleyball season, has talented center Arinn McGee and youthful guards Aubrea and Jadyn Kor.
Windom’s perimeter-oriented offense features lots of shooters and ball-handlers, including superb sophomore Hadley Sammons.
Meanwhile, the Southwest Christian Eagles seem poised to achieve more success.
And that’s not exactly news.
The Eagles, like Luverne, advanced all the way to the section semifinals a year ago and return plenty of talent and experience to chase what would be the eighth state tourney berth in program history.
Southwest Christian coach Luke Drooger can rely on junior guard Ana Veldkamp, who earned second-team Globe All-Area honors on the Eagles’ 21-7 team last winter.
Globe All-Area third-teamer Makenna Moss and fellow junior Jocelyn Barron are veteran forwards for the Eagles, while elite defender Kierra Binford also returns to the Southwest Christian lineup.
Veldkamp scored 300 points as a sophomore last winter.
“She’s worked a lot on basketball this summer and has looked really good in practice so far,” Drooger said. “I’m excited for her.”
Among the teams hoping to challenge Southwest Christian for Red Rock Conference supremacy are those from Edgerton, Hills-Beaver Creek, Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda, Red Rock Central, Adrian-Ellsworth, Murray County Central and Mountain Lake Area-Comfrey.
“I think our conference will be competitive and it should be a fun season,” Drooger said.
Junior guard Layla Deelstra and 6-3 junior center Lance Elders lead Hills-Beaver Creek, while Westbrook-Walnut Grove can rely on junior Isabel Klumper, a talented scorer and Globe third-team All-Area pick last winter. Klumper’s father, Dan, is a Worthington native and the W-WG head coach.
Edgerton junior forward Alyda Vande Griend is a challenge at both ends of the floor, and talented guards are back at HL-O/Fulda (Anna Fest), Adrian (Sadie Krahling) and Red Rock Central (Emily Decock).
The MCC team returns a lot of experience, led by seniors Seanna Swenson, Zoey Iverson, Casey Miller and Mary Lou McNab, plus juniors Abby Overman and Jayda Hellewell.
Mountain Lake Area-Comfrey returns talented post player Brooke Naas and veteran point guard Jaci Tolefson.