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High School Girls Basketball Focus: Caledonia has a special look

The Caledonia girls basketball program has reached the state title game twice under coach Scott Sorenson. His current team has the look of one that might do it again.

Lourdes, Caledonia Section 1AA quarterfinal girls basketball
Caledonia’s Alexis Schroeder (2) controls the ball during a Section 1AA girls basketball quarterfinal game against Lourdes on Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester. Schroeder is one of a pack of experienced and talented players on this season's Warriors team.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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This overwhelming version of the Caledonia girls basketball team has been years in the making.

Four years, to be exact.

It was that long ago that current starters Alexis Schroeder, Ava Privet, Paige Klug and Jovial King were freshmen and already getting big varsity minutes.

“We knew as they were coming up that we were going to have to take some lumps (because of their youth),” 19th-year Caledonia coach Scott Sorenson said.

He was right. That was especially true that foursome’s freshman year, when they finished an un-Caledonia-like 8-20.

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The Warriors followed that by going 12-7 the next season and 17-11 last year.

And now, with nine seniors on the rosters, as much depth as Sorenson says he’s ever had, and a couple of young stars playing, Caledonia has a familiar look. Sorenson has advanced five Caledonia girls teams to the state basketball tournament, including winning it 2009 when it finished 31-0, and ending as a state runner-up in 2019.

This 2022-23 Warriors outfit is reminiscent of those glory seasons.

Caledonia has barely just begun, but what a beginning it’s been, routing always formidable Winona Cotter 62-24, beating a strong La Crescent-Hokah team 78-64 before routing Fillmore Central 65-26.

This is a talented, mature bunch of Warriors.

“I’ve been coaching some of them for five years (Schroeder and Privet were on the state runner-up team in 2019),” Sorenson said. “It’s a great group. They now know what we (coaches) are thinking almost before we’re thinking it.”

Of those nine seniors, Sorenson says that almost all of them would be starters on any other Class AA high school team.

And then there’s Josie Foster. One of five Caledonia players who is 5-foot-9 or better, Foster is a sophomore and likely her team’s best overall prospect.

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But on this team, she’s a substitute. Not because she’s not good enough to be a starter — because she easily is — but because Sorenson doesn’t want to break up the sweet chemistry that these seniors have built together.

That’s no problem for Foster, who led Caledonia in its first two games offensively, with 22 and 15 points.

“I told Josie that she really should be starting,” Sorenson said. “And she said to me, ‘Absolutely not.’ She understands her role and is extremely coachable. Her dad (Matt Foster) has worked with her and done a great job.”

One more factor working in Caledonia’s favor is the presence of Josh Diersen. A former Caledonia head boys basketball coach and a one-time star guard at the school, Sorenson has Diersen working with his post players. Two of the primary focuses are 5-11 senior Elly Milde and 5-10 junior Regan King.

They have been sponges with Diersen.

“I gave Josh the task of getting our post players up to speed,” Sorenson said. “And in two games, it’s amazing how well they’ve played. In the past few years, we just didn’t have that post presence.”

Now they do, and a whole lot more. Caledonia is a handful.

TOP 5 STANDOUTS

St. Charles, Plainview-Elgin-Millville girls basketball
Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Abigail O’Reilly (4) goes up for a shot during a girls basketball game against St. Charles on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at St. Charles High School in St. Charles.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

1. Abigail O’Reilly, Plainview-Elgin-Millville

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The most dominant southeastern Minnesota player in the infancy of this season has been P-E-M 6-foot-1 excellent athlete O’Reilly. This year, the senior has had games of 35, 29 and 27 points. The latter came on Tuesday, Dec. 6, putting her over 1,000 points for her career.

2. Miranda Palamby, Dover-Eyota

The 6-foot sophomore had a massive role in the Eagles’ 75-47 win over Lewiston-Altura on Tuesday, Dec. 6, leading them in scoring and rebounding. Palamby finished with 19 points and 18 rebounds.

120921-LOURDES-KASSON-MANTORVILLE-BASKETBALL-0395.jpg
Kasson-Mantorville's Aby Shubert (11) fouls Lourdes' Caroline Adamson (24) as she goes up for a shot during a girls basketball game Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, at Lourdes High School in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo

3. Aby Shubert, Kasson-Mantorville

This might be the last time this season that the KoMets senior star guard lands in the Top 5 Standouts. Shubert injured her knee on Thursday, Dec. 1, and might be out for the season. On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Shubert scored 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and hit three 3-pointers in a win over Austin. Shubert will play next year at Division I Xavier University.

4. Ava Privet, Caledonia

Privet was feeling it on Tuesday, Dec. 7, with her knocking down six 3-pointers and finishing with 23 points in a lopsided win over Fillmore Central. Privet is a senior guard.

Mayo, Winona girls basketball
Mayo’s Hannah Hanson (1) goes up for a shot during a girls basketball game against Winona on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo

5. Hannah Hanson, Mayo

The Spartans were looking for a bounce-back-performance after getting routed by Lakeville South on Saturday, Dec. 3. Hanson went a long way towards providing Mayo that three days later as she racked up 28 points in an 87-55 blasting of Albert Lea.

POWER RANKINGS

(Editor's note: These rankings are considered "pound-for-pound" rankings, similar to many rankings systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the best teams in southeastern Minnesota, relative to the class they play in.

1. Caledonia (3-0)

This is the deepest team in southeastern Minnesota and among the state’s deepest. It’s also loaded with experience, enough height and star power. And there is a budding star here. That is sophomore Josie Foster. She came off the bench to lead the Warriors in scoring their first two games.

2. Goodhue (2-0)

The Wildcats under Josh Wieme have had one of most consistently great girls basketball programs in the state. No. 4-ranked Goodhue is excellent all over again, led by sweet-shooting senior forward Tori Miller and 5-9 junior point guard Elisabeth Gadient. Miller was All-State last year and Gadient has the look of a player who will be All-State this season. The Wildcats got a massive test on Tuesday, Dec. 6, when they eked out a 53-52 win over No. 6 Lourdes. It was 5-10 senior Jada Scheele with the biggest game, scoring 15 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and providing the winning basket.

3. Lourdes (1-1)

Not many teams have three players committed to play college basketball. But Lourdes does, with 6-foot-3 center Ella Hopkins (Gonzaga University), forward Vivica Bretton (Winona State University) and guard Emily Bowron (Gustavus Adolphus University). There is star power there and plenty of experience, with Hopkins, Bretton and Bowron all seniors and multi-year starters. No. 6-ranked Lourdes just missed against No. 4 Goodhue on Tuesday, Dec., 6, losing 53-52.

4. Byron (3-0)

The Bears’ schedule just got really tough. On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Byron showed just how good at it can be as it knocked off No. 9-ranked Stewartville 68-60. On Thursday, Dec. 8, the Bears are at equally formidable Goodhue. There is a lot to like about this Byron squad led by one of the state’s more up-and-coming sophomores, guard Kendra Harvey, senior forward Mankana Schroeder, athletic junior guard Paige Halder and sweet-shooting senior Emma Stork.

5. Stewartville (3-2)

No. 9-ranked Stewartville already has two losses, but to tough teams. It fell to No. 2-ranked Mountain Iron-Buhl and then to Byron. Senior guard Haylee Strum and junior forward Savannah Hedin give the Tigers two of the top players in the area. Strum was honorable-mention All-State last year when she averaged 17 points and three steals per game. This is a deep and athletic Tigers team.

6. Century (2-0)

It’s been an impressive start for Century, which has made incremental steps the last two years. The Panthers were 4-15 two years ago, 13-14 last season, and have started this season 2-0. Century has unloaded on both Mankato public schools, beating West 37-33 and then showing it can score points in a 68-59 win over East. Junior shooting guard Taylor Clarey is one of the top talents in the Big Nine Conference.

7. Hayfield (2-1)

That was a rough one against No. 2-ranked Mountain Iron-Buhl on Saturday, Dec. 3, No. 3 Hayfield losing 79-33. But there is still loads of belief in the Vikings, who have two of the area’s best players, Kristen Watson and Natalie Beaver, the juniors both All-State a year ago. Hayfield was a state-tournament team last season.

8. Chatfield (4-0)

Chatfield got its first real test on Tuesday, Dec. 6, beating Plainview-Elgin-Millville 55-47. The Gophers are outscoring their opponents by an average of 62-40. This is another team boasting great balance. Taylor Ask, Evy Goldsmith, Kara Koetzinger, Anna Kivimagi and Kendall Knutson all scored at least eight points in a win over Lewiston-Altura.

9. Grand Meadow (2-0)

Grand Meadow was young last year, with all of its top players non-seniors. So, things are looking up for a team that finished 23-7 in 2021-22 and reached the Section 1A title game. Senior guard/forward Kendyl Queensland is back after averaging 11 points and five rebounds per game last year. Also back is her sophomore sister, Lauren Queensland. Like Kendyl, 5-10, Lauren averaged 10 points and eight rebounds a year ago.

10. Kingsland (2-0)

It’s been two games and two routs for Kingsland, which beat United Christian Academy 56-42 and Spring Grove 70-51. Kingsland buried nine 3-pointers against Spring Grove, Katelyn Hauser with four of them. There are also two fantastic athletes on this team in guards Anika Reiland and Chantle Reiland, two of the state’s top sprinters.

Related Topics: CALEDONIAGIRLS BASKETBALL
Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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