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Windom Area leads hopeful slate of area girls basketball teams

The Windom Area girls basketball team last season came up one victory short of qualifying for the first state tournament appearance in program history.

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Southwest Minnesota Christian players and fans react after beating Hills-Beaver Creek for the 2020 Sub-Section 3A girls basketball championship. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

The Windom Area girls basketball team last season came up one victory short of qualifying for the first state tournament appearance in program history.

Perhaps the Eagles are ready to take that extra step this winter.

“We are looking to build off the positive momentum we had going last season,” said Windom coach Jacob Johnson. “The Big South Conference is going to be incredibly tough top to bottom ... We are excited for our girls to get the opportunity to compete.”

Windom Area was 19-9 last year and returns several talented players, including Globe All-Area first-team selection Allison Letcher. The 5-foot-10 senior averaged 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists last winter.

Letcher’s buzzer-beating basket in a memorable sub-section championship game against Luverne provided a highlight that will live long in Windom girls basketball lore.

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Also returning for Windom are senior center Delaney Smith, who averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds, and senior guard Gracie Boucher.

Luverne and Jackson County Central are also expected to contend for Big South and Section 3AA honors. Luverne, coached by TJ Newgard, is led by Brooklyn Ver Steeg, a 5-5 junior who was named to the Globe’s All-Area second team, and sophomore guard Averill Sehr. Jackson features talented scorers Sadie Voss and Maci Farmer. Voss is an especially fine all-round athlete.

There is no shortage of talent in the Red Rock Conference and Section 3A, either. The Red Rock and postseason playoffs have long been dominated by Southwest Christian, with the Eagles of coach Denise Nerem having appeared in the last five section championship games.

The Eagles lost superstar Jazlynn Prins to graduation. She scored a school-record 1,827 points and finished her career No. 1 on the program’s all-time steals chart and No. 2 all-time in assists. But much talent returns, including Globe All-Area first-teamer Maren Nerem. The 6-foot senior averaged 15.8 points and 13.3 rebounds last winter for her mother’s 24-6 team.

Ella Veldkamp and Cybil Vander Top are senior guards and returning starters for the Eagles, while junior Morgan Pap is another fine shooter and key contributor.

Hills-Beaver Creek and Red Rock Central will also be strong contenders for conference and section honors. Hills-Beaver Creek, coached by Kale Wiertzema, finished 22-3 and defeated Southwest Christian twice in three games last winter.

“It’s been exciting to get back in the gym with the girls,” said Wiertzema, whose team returns its three top scorers from last year’s fine team. “We are going to have more depth than we did last year, which will help us compete at the pace we want to play.”

Senior Taryn Rauk is back after averaging 17.3 points and 3.5 steals. The talented 5-8 forward was a Globe All-Area first-teamer last season.

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Globe All-Area third-teamer Abby Knobloch (12.1 points per game, 6.5 rebounds) and junior guard Kenadie Fick (11.5 ppg, 40 percent from 3-point range) also return to the Hills-Beaver Creek starting lineup.

Red Rock Central will rely on returning All-Red Rock performers Nicole Schroepfer and Karli Arkell, the latter a 6-2 junior and second-team Globe All-Area pick.

Murray County Central could also emerge as a top contender, though the squad lost a lot to graduation. The Rebels of coach Lucas Freeman are led by experienced guards Brynn Graphenteen and Amber Boock, and talented center Bryn Hoekman. All three averaged about six ppg last winter.

Senior guards Emma Johnson and Josie Harms provide plenty of depth, and 6-2 junior Emily Rohrer is back after missing last season with an injury.

“I expect (Rohrer) to have a breakout season,” Freeman said. “Early on in the season our goal is to get comfortable playing with one another and really see where we’re at. We hope to continue to gain experience and confidence so we can be playing our best basketball by the end of the season.

“I expect the conference to be very competitive throughout.”

The Edgerton girls of coach Andrew Fleischman had eight players in grades 7-9 on the varsity roster last winter and should be a bit more experienced this time around. The Dutchmen will rely on seniors Brianna Bloemendaal and Addison Fleischman. Juniors Reece Wassink and Haley Wieck will also contribute

At Westbrook-Walnut Grove, Worthington native Dan Klumper is the new head coach. Klumper’s Chargers will be paced by senior forwards Bethany Byers and Olivia Klumper, a transfer from Brandon Valley (S.D.). Olivia and her sister, freshman Isabel, will both be playing for their father’s team this winter.

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Among the other fine players returning in the Red Rock are Chrissy Hermeling of Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda, and Jayden Zebe of Adrian-Ellsworth.

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Murray County Central's Morgan Clarke (15) and Red Rock Central's Bridget Bierl (14) contend for a rebound in a 2019-20 post-season game at Worthington High School. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

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