City teams hopeful entering section playoffs
Lakeville North has the top seed, a state ranking, history and momentum on its side for the Section One, Class AAAA girls basketball tournament beginning this week.
But all three Rochester coaches believe their teams can have something to say about it.
'Lakeville North is the team to beat, but I think there may be a few surprises in the first round," said Century coach Chris Stenzel, whose No. 5 seed Panthers open the tournament at No. 4 John Marshall on Wednesday.
"Lakeville North is the looking good again this year," JM coach Terry Heiderscheit said. "But Mayo has had a nice season and Owatonna has improved a great deal over the course of the season.
"And we hope (JM) can make a good run."
Mayo seeded 2nd behind North
Mayo is the No. 2 seed andaims to reach the section final for a third straight year. The 18-7 Spartans were section champs in 2011, and last year lost to Lakeville North which returned to the section after five seasons in Section 3AAAA.
"I give our kids a lot of credit, because at the start of the year you would have had a tough time finding anyone that would have picked us second (in the section)," said Mayo coach Rich Decker, who replaced former coach Angie Meister this season.
"Overall its been a challenging, but hopefully rewarding year for our players."
Mayo likely has the best inside player in the tournament with 6-foot senior center Rachael Doll, a fourth-year varsity player who is quick and leaps well. She had 20 double-doubles in 25 regular season games.
""Obviously we are fortunate to have Doll, who everyday comes to the gym to work and improve," Decker said. "You rarely will see a high school player who is almost a sure double-double each night."
Decker also likes that Mayo has the best defensive average in the section at 45 allowed per game.
"That's an excellent accomplishment for players that needed to understand a new defensive philosophy in a short time," he said.
Many close losses for JM
John Marshallis just one game above .500 after a 7-3 start this season,but the Rockets lost many close games in the second half of the season.
"Wehaven't ever been involved with a team that has had such hard luck with game-ending shots," Heiderscheit said. "We lostfour buzzer beaters andone overtime game after Christmas break. You switchsome of those and our record looks much better than 13-12."
The Rockets are a tall and physically strong team with three double-figure scorers in freshmen Jamie Ruden and Nicole Fautsch, and senior guard Katelyn Rushton.
"We have all the tools to play good basketball," Heiderscheit said. "Our season will come down to our defense. When we play with energy we look good and we make the game look easy.If we aren't getting after it we struggle."
Century struggled in 2nd half
Century also had a rough second half after a 5-2 start. The 10-15 Panthers had a 10-game losing streak in January and lost their last two in the regular season. Century had an encouraging 61-56 overtime win against JM two weeks ago.
Century is led by sophomore guard Kanani Asuncion, who became the program's first 1,000-point scorer two weeks ago.
"We haveplayed much better in February compared to January," Stenzel said. "For us to be successful we must rebound well and play good team defense. On offense we must attack, get some points in the paint, and get to the free throw line."