Quasars look to shine brightly at state

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even though Southwest Star Concept and Cedar Mountain/Comfrey have already faced each other this season, the two teams have come a long way since their December meeting.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even though Southwest Star Concept and Cedar Mountain/Comfrey have already faced each other this season, the two teams have come a long way since their December meeting.

CM/C won the first meeting, 45-41, Dec. 20 at the CM/C Christmas Challenge.

However, when the teams each make their first -ever state tournament appearance at 3 p.m. today in the opening round of the girls' Class A state tournament at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota, they will have a different look.

"Cedar Mountain/Comfrey beat us when we played them before, but both teams have quite a bit different looks than what we had when we saw them in December," SSC head coach Les Knutson (pictured right) said. "Brooke DeWall didn't play in the game at all because she was injured, and we were not playing Katey Granstra very much, and she only played about seven minutes in that game."

DeWall enters as SSC's (22-6) leading scorer (15.1 points per game), while Granstra has solidified her spot in the starting lineup by averaging 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds a game as a freshman.


While Amber Seifert scored 18 points against the Quasars in December, the Cougars (21-8) will sport a balanced attack.

Seifert averages 10.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest, while Alyssa Rose scores about 10 points and Sadie Kelly averages nine points a contest.

"They don't have a particular star," Knutson said. "They don't have a Sam Lynn as a guard or an Emily Bose in the post, or they don't have the overall team speed and quickness that Russell-Tyler-Ruthton has. They are very efficient offensively, and they play very good team defense."

Despite entering the contest with eight losses on the season, it was the game against SSC that started the Cougars' run which has brought them to the state tournament.

"This year, they were a lot like Fulda, where they started out 2-5, and then they beat us," Knutson said. "We did a great job of getting the Cougars confidence level up, because after they beat us, they finished the season at 19-3. They are 21-8, but five of their losses were before they played us."

While the victory propelled the Cougars, it had the opposite effect on the Quasars.

"On the other hand, that game seemed to send us into a tail spin," Knutson said. "Although, we also faced the heart of our schedule as far as tough teams. We came into that game 7-1, and then seven games later, we were 9-6. So, that game for us started a stretch where we lost five out of seven."

After the stretch of games that left the Quasars wounded, SSC has picked the right time to gain momentum.


Entering today's game, the Quasars have won 13 straight games, including victories over Murray County Central, Fulda and Adrian -- three teams that handed SSC earlier losses.

"We're coming in 22-6, and both teams are peaking and playing the best basketball late in the season," Knutson said. "We're excited about how we've been playing, and we've avenged some of those losses that we had."

With CM/C hailed as a tough defensive team, the Cougars will have their hands full with a multi-dimensional Quasar offense.

Breanna Rients (11.7 points per game) is coming off a 20-point performance in SSC's victory over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton and scored 21 points against Adrian in the previous game.

Adri Rasche (10.8 points per game) scored just eight points in SSC's last game, but has scored in double figures 16 times this season.

However, with both teams' strengths on the defensive end, today's game has all the makings of a low-scoring defensive battle.

"I think both teams will take care of the ball. We want to stop any transitions from them, and they'll be doing the same thing to us," Knutson said. "I would certainly think that the score would be in the 40s or 50s. I would be surprised if either team scores 60."

CM/C advanced to today's game as the No. 3 seed from the south side of section 2A.


After blowing out Cleveland (92-27), the Cougars came away with a 44-31 victory over New Ulm Cathedral in the second round.

CM/C then defeated the top seed in the south, Sleepy Eye St. Mary's, 47-40, to set up a showdown with Granada-Huntley-East Chain.

By holding G-H-EC a season-low point total, CM/C was able to slide past the Mustangs, 50-48.

"Granada-Huntley-East Chain was undefeated, 25-0, and ranked second in the state," Knutson said. "I don't know what Granada-Huntley-East Chain averages for points, but I'm sure they were averaging in the high 60s, and they got 48 against Cedar Mountain/Comfrey. So, from that standpoint, we're similar."

In the Quasars' 13-game winning streak, opponents have scored more than 50 points just twice.

"Team defense has been our strength," Knutson said. "In the four games that we've won in the tournament, late in the game I think we've stepped it up defensively."

While the Quasars and Cougars are both hoping today's game will be the first of three more victories, Knutson enters the game with 497 career victories, meaning a championship would be his 500th career victory.

But for Knutson to celebrate win No. 500, and the Quasars to bring a state championship back to southwest Minnesota and the Red Rock Conference, they will first have to get past a tough Cougar team.


"We'll have to play with the same intensity and emotions that we played with in the four tournament games that we've played so far," Knutson said. "I think our determination has been exceptionally high, and it's just very evident that we want to win."

What To Read Next
Get Local