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Goodhue confident against top-rated foe

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Goodhue's Derek McNamara puts up a shot over Rushford's Riley Anderson (35) during the section 1 A championship game Thursday, March 17, 2011 at Mayo Civic Center's Taylor Arena.

A look at the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa boys basketball team on paper would seem to be a cause of concern for the Goodhue Wildcats.

But the Wildcats realize basketball games are not played on paper.

Goodhue will take on Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the Class A state quarterfinals on Thursday at 11 a.m. at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.

The Jaguars seemed to have everything going for them heading into the state quarterfinals. B-B-E enters with a perfect 30-0 record and is ranked No. 1 in the state. The Jaguars also feature a starting lineup of five players between 6-foot-4 and 6-6.

"They are big," said Goodhue coach Tony Poncelet, who went to watch the Jaguars play in the Section 6A title game in Morris.

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"They're a lot like us in a lot of ways," Poncelet said. "They like to push the ball, they're physical, athletic.

"They like to put pressure on you. Our No. 1 goal going into the game will be to handle their pressure."

The Wildcats are making their first state appearance since 2004, when Poncelet guided Goodhue to a 30-3 season and a third-place state finish. This year's Goodhue team might not have a sensational record at  24-7, but the Wildcats play in the Hiawatha Valley League, which features mostly Class AA teams. Goodhue also beat Class AAA Faribault and played a bigger Wisconsin school in River Falls.

"We're used to playing some bigger schools," Goodhue senior Ashton Erie said. "And we went 7-3 at a (summer) camp in Duluth going against some bigger schools."

"We have the worst record in Class A of the eight teams there (at state), but I wouldn't trade it for anything," Poncelet said. "You make it through our schedule healthy and you're battle-tested."

The Wildcats are healthy heading into the state tournament and they are bracing for B-B-E's pressure defense. The Jaguars off use a trapping 1-3-1 or 1-2-2 zone to force turnovers.

"They're athletic and we'll find out in a hurry if they are (quick)," Poncelet said.

The Jaguars start three seniors and two juniors. Offensively, 6-4 senior guard Kevin Kuefler paces the team by scoring 19 points a game and 6-5 senior forward Brady Koehler averages 14 points.

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"I think we're more physical then they are," Erie said.

Poncelet says defense, rebounding and limiting turnovers will be the keys for Goodhue in the game.

"We've got to rebound with them," Poncelet said. "They have a lot of big guys. We have to limit them to one shot."

It's not like the Wildcats are a small team. They feature 6-5 junior forward Michael McNamara and Erie, a 6-4 senior guard. Erie averages 22 points a game McNamara averages 12. No other Goodhue starter is taller than 6-1.

The other starters are 5-9 senior point guard Derek McNamara (10 ppg), 6-1 senior forward Nathan Voth (8 ppg) and 5-11 senior guard Jared Dicke (7 ppg). Brian Strauss, a 5-11 senior guard, averages 9 points off the bench.

"We need to play a game like we did against Rushford-Peterson (in the Section 1A finals)," Poncelet said. "We only had eight turnovers and shot 57 percent."

Erie said Dicke, a fierce defender, gives the Wildcats a defensive edge. He also says Voth is an excellent rebounder for his size.

Poncelet said the Wildcats will try and slow B-B-E by playing mostly a man-to-man defense.

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The Goodhue and B-B-E winner will face the MaCCRay (26-3) and Maranatha Christian Academy (26-2) winner in the state semifinals on Friday at noon at Target Center. The loser is eliminated.

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