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Minnesota West wrestlers, women's basketball team await postseason

WORTHINGTON -- A Minnesota West women's basketball team that lost seven of its first nine games during the regular season will begin its quest for a 2019 Region XIII Tournament championship Saturday in La Crosse, Wis.

WORTHINGTON -- A Minnesota West women’s basketball team that lost seven of its first nine games during the regular season will begin its quest for a 2019 Region XIII Tournament championship Saturday in La Crosse, Wis.

A day earlier, on Friday, the NJCAA national wrestling tournament gets under way in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where three Bluejays -- Chris Romero (125 pounds), Adam Rients (157) and Braydon Johnson (165), compete for hardware over a two-day span.

Romero is recovering from a hyperextended elbow from a recent fall on the ice. Head coach Bryan Cowdin said the freshman from Grand Meadow has responded with cardio exercises and shadow drilling and should be ready to go.

All three wrestlers look ready, Cowdin said.

“These last few weeks we’ve been getting them into different practice rooms, just to give them some different looks,” he declared. “These kids have the right temperament and attitude to get it done.”

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Meanwhile, the Lady Jays appear to have turned their season around after struggling to successfully mix their first-year players with their veterans. Now, however, they’re 15-11 and feeling good about themselves.

“I do feel like we’re playing our best basketball,” said head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka on Monday. “That’s exactly the way you want to be playing at this time of year.”

In early December, the Lady Jays hardly looked like a region tournament team.

“We had some glaring faults. And we just weren’t playing very well together,” said the coach. “Cudos to the girls for figuring things out.”

Defensively, Hayenga-Hostikka said, the team “improved leaps and bounds” since then, as players learned to trust each-other more. Passing also improved to the point where players became more willing to make the extra pass. Though too many turnovers are still an issue at times, that’s improved, too.

Hayenga-Hostikka said it wasn’t just the players who got better. The coach, too, became more aware of the players’ abilities and learned to adjust to their strengths.

The March 2-3 tournament will now feature a balanced Minnesota West team brimming with desire -- some of them still remembering a bitter ending to the 2018 regional tournament, where West lost a two-overtime championship game to Rochester in Worthington.

“It never goes away from the back of my mind. The sting,” Hayenga-Hostikka recalled this week. “But the difference is that nobody really expects us to win it this year, but ourselves.”

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Emily Shaffer, a Worthington High School graduate, leads Minnesota West this season with a 16.8 scoring average and 10.8 rebounds per game. Avery Van Roekel averages 12.2 points per game and Lexie Ramsey averages 12.0. Emily Schroer scores 11.8 games per contest. M’Kayla Mike scores 7.0 points and dishes out 5.3 assists per outing.

Minnesota West, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, will play No. 2 Anoka-Ramsey at 3 p.m. Saturday. The championship game is Sunday at 1 p.m.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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