After a convincing 49-33 section final victory over Dassel Cokato Friday night, the Monticello girls basketball team left the gym hopeful that they would have a seed number next to their name when the pairings were announced this past weekend for the Class AAA tournament starting Wednesday. They had reason to hope, mainly a QRF ranking that put them third amongst the eight qualifying teams. But, when the top five seeds were announced, Monticello was not amongst them. Instead, the girls were put into a random draw to play against one of the top three teams.
They drew the No. 3 seed, Fergus Falls. The Otters are undefeated (29-0) this year, and survived a one-point nail biter against Alexandria in the section finals to qualify for the state tournament. Fergus was seeded third behind Richfield (No. 1) and DeLaSalle, the defending state champions.
Coach Craig Geyen knew that getting a seed wasn’t a given for the Magic, but said the girls still have a slight chip on their shoulder from not being awarded one of the top five spots.
“[We want to] go in and show people, hey, we can play some basketball out here,” said Geyen.
It won’t be an easy task against an Otters team that has lost just one regular season game in the past two years. Last year, Fergus Falls finished third in the state tournament. Despite losing some talent to graduation, they look to be just as good this year. The Otters use their height and length up front, starting three girls at six feet tall or over, to defend, while they look to use their athleticism to get out and run on offense.
“They love to get up and down and score,” said Geyen. But he added they’re also capable in the high-low post game, and have the ability to shoot three pointers. The Otters rely on their starting five to do a lot of the damage, and are led by a 6-foot point guard in Brianna Rasmussen and a talented shooting guard in Bailey Strand.
The Magic meanwhile will hope to find a better shooting venue in Williams Arena then they found at Buffalo High School. While the girls will certainly continue to try and set the tempo with their defense, they’ll likely need to improve their three point shooting (5 for 35 the last two games) if they are to hang with the Otters.
Perhaps the biggest plus the Magic have going for them is they are no longer an inexperienced, or possibly starstruck group at this level of play. After last year the girls know what the state tournament experience is like, and they want more.
“This year it’s like, hey we made it, but now let’s get a win,” said Geyen.
Tip off is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Williams Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Tickets for the game will be sold at the door and cost $14 for adults and $9 for students. Fans are encouraged to wear red or black. If the Magic do win they’ll move on to the semifinals at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Target Center.
If you aren’t able to attend the game, you can tune into a radio broadcast on 1360 KRWC, or visit www.monticellotimes.com after the game for results.