It’s hard to imagine a much tougher road than the one Goodhue is on right now.
That started Saturday with the Wildcats taking on No. 1-ranked (Class A) Minneota in the Kasson Showcase. That couldn’t have gone much better for No. 8-ranked (Class AA) Goodhue, as it won in a rout, 64-44.
But now comes some even tougher tests. In succession, Goodhue plays three of the five toughest teams in an ultra-tough Hiawatha Valley League. It is at Stewartville on Thursday (moved up from Friday because of an impending storm), home to Kasson-Mantorville on Tuesday and at Rochester Lourdes next Friday.
“We're really happy with how things have gone so far,” Goodhue coach Josh Wieme said. “But we know that this stretch of games will really show us where we’re at.”
As tough as Goodhue’s assignments will be, none of those teams will be excited to play the Wildcats, either.
Not only has Goodhue beaten everybody on its schedule but Red Wing, the No. 6-ranked team in Class AAA, but it's the way that it's done it that is so daunting. Simply, the height-challenged Wildcats — with none of their top-10 players more than 5-feet-9 — wear teams out with full-court pressure defense, from start to finish.
And they they do it going 10 deep, allowing them to sustain this all-out assault. Their non-stop, harassing ways have reaped huge dividens. Goodhue is forcing teams into a virtually unheard of 31 turnovers per game.
“Everything starts there with (5-feet-5 junior guard) Torrie Rehder,” Wieme said. “The tone she sets with her ball hawking and sprinting is incredible.”
That the Goodhue players go along with this non-stop approach is also something to behold, because it’s exhausting.
“We made some changes this year based on the kids we have,” Wieme said. “We are short but we have good numbers. We are pressuring harder and more end-to-end than we ever have. We’re just trying to wear our opponents out and hoping that our depth and quickness is the difference.”
So far, so good. Goodhue is 15-1, winners of 14 straight, and allowing an HVL-low 38.3 points per game.
BLOOMING PRAIRIE ON A ROLL
John Bruns suspected things would go something like that this.
At least he hoped they would.
The Blooming Prairie fifth-year girls basketball coach may be sitting with his best team yet, riding along at a robust 10-2, the only losses to No. 8 Class AA-ranked Goodhue (60-53) and No. 9 (Class A) and unbeaten Waterville-Elysian-Morristown (59-51).
It was Bruns reflecting on last year’s 13-10 record and that his team had played its best basketball late in the season that gave him such hope. But even more importantly was that the Blossoms were returning everyone from last year’s roster, with gym rats sprinkled in.
“We were very competitive last year and got better and better as the season went on,” Bruns said. “We were excited about coming back with this group.”
That excitement looks justified. This is a balanced Blossoms team, with three players averaging in double figures. Junior 5-feet-10 forward Megan Oswald averages 15 points per game, 5-10 sophomore guard Bobbie Bruns 12 ppg., and 5-10 senior forward Julia Worke 11 ppg.
But it's what the No. 5-ranked (Class A) Blossoms do on the other end of the court that gives opponents the biggest problem. Blooming Prairie is loaded with thieves, as it generates close to 14 steals per game. The Bruns sisters, Bobbie and Maggie (junior guard), average 2.9 and 2.7 steals, respectively. Oswald is at 2.5 per game.
“Our goals is to get 15 steals per game,” said John Bruns, father of Bobbie and Maggie. “We focus on playing good defense. We get a lot of deflections and some of those turn into steals. If an (opposing) offense is not comfortable with what they’re doing (against us), then our defense is working.”
ODDS AND ENDS
The hottest Class AA team in southeastern Minnesota, though still unranked, is Stewartville. The Tigers had won their last five games before dropping a 66-59 decision Saturday to Class AAAA team Simley. Included in that stretch was beating beating powerful Class AAAA team Rochester Mayo (65-55) and Lourdes (65-53). . .
Lourdes has gone from ranked No. 1 to ranked fourth in Class AA. The top three teams are Sauk Centre, Fergus Falls and Minnehaha Academy, respectively. . .
Blooming Prairie is the odds-on favorite to make it to the Class A state tournament. The Blossoms are Section 1A’s only ranked team.