Clean the glass, punch your ticket
Someone's roll will come to an abrupt end in Thursday's Section One, Class A championship.
Goodhue has won 20 of its last 21 games while Rushford-Peterson, which was a sub-.500 team as late as Feb. 3, blitzed sixth-ranked Spring Grove 67-49 in Friday's subsection title game for its ninth straight victory.
Both teams have enjoyed a late season renaissance thanks largely to their senior leaders, but the coaches agree rebounding will determine whose season comes to an end one game short of Williams Arena.
"That's a concern for us every game," said R-P coach Matt Helgemoe, who prefers to push the pace with a guard-orientated attack. "We are not big, we are not wide and we are narrow. But we are quick. …To be honest with you, whoever wins the rebounding (battle) will win the game."
The Wildcats return four starters from last season's state tournament appearance, including their entire front line. Senior forward Grace Majerus leads a balance attack with 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds a night, while five teammates average at least 5.7 points a game. Junior center Chanel Robert, who stands 6-foot-2, might pose the biggest matchup problem for the smaller Trojans.
R-P will look to counter that advantage by getting the ball in senior Jade Pelzl's hands and pushing the pace. Though Goodhue was forced to abandon its press for the first time all year in Friday's victory over Faribault Bethlehem Academy, it's a style both teams have thrived on throughout the season.
Goodhue coach Josh Wieme plans to keep his defensive options flexible in the championship game, but acknowledges the focus will always remain on slowing Pelzl.
"I think we're going to try to wear her out, just bug her all over the floor," he said. "We've faced some very, very good post players this year, but we haven't really faced a stud guard like this. It will be kind of interesting."
Pelzl has bounced back from an early-season shooting slump to hit "about 45 percent" of her 3-pointers during the nine-game winning streak. The 5-foot-5 guard has also cut her turnovers while improving her assist and rebound numbers. The four-year starter finished with 25 points, five rebounds and four steals against Spring Grove..
Under usual conditions, her most likely defender would be Goodhue's Courtney Hinsch. However, the junior has been nursing a knee injury for the past few weeks. Her status has created some uncertainty for the Wildcats.
"She's definitely hurting," Wieme said of his point guard. "She's definitely not nearly as explosive. I thought she really gutted out the last game, but I can just tell the explosiveness isn't there."
Despite that news, Helgemoe is quick to embrace the role of underdog against the defending section champ.
"They're as good as advertised," R-P's coach said. "We have a huge mountain to get over, no question about it. The good thing is we're playing really well right now, probably as good as we can play."