High School Girls Basketball Focus: Century comes up with a statement win

The Century girls basketball team showed that it can play with anyone in Section 1AAAA when it beat Lakeville South this past Saturday.

Century, Mayo girls basketball
Century’s Audrey Whitney (3) controls the ball during a girls basketball game against Mayo on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, at Century High School in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — What Century pulled off on Feb. 4 resonated so much that its players polished off the night with a celebratory dousing of their head coach, Chadd Clarey, soaking him with water bottle showers.

That followed the Panthers beating South Suburban Conference power Lakeville South 61-57.

It was a big one. Lakeville South is regarded as one of the favorites to win the Section 1AAAA title and advance to the state tournament this year. The other favorite, Lakeville North (15-5), has split two games against Lakeville South (14-7) this season.

Now, Century — despite a surprisingly lopsided loss to Austin on Tuesday — knows it is firmly in the mix as a contender to advance to state. The win over Lakeville South had everything to do with that.

“That was a huge confidence builder for the girls,” said Clarey, whose Panthers are 14-7 overall. “We’d hoped that we could compete with them. Our only similar opponent had been Mayo (which had lost to Lakeville South in lopsided fashion early in the season).”


Mayo beat Century 63-43 on Jan. 10.

Century quickly discovered, however, that it could hang with the Cougars. Clarey said his team did just about everything well in making that happen.

That included his daughter, junior guard and third-year starter Taylor Clarey, scoring 23 points and surpassing 1,000 career points en route. She also contributed 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and hit 4 of 9 shots from 3-point range.

“She knocked some big shots down,” Chadd Clarey said.

She wasn’t the only one. Fellow Century guard Audrey Whitney was also terrific, bagging four 3-pointers as part of her 17-point night, as well as went a long way toward solving the Cougars’ full-court pressure defense with her ball handling and passing.

“Audrey got us going,” Chadd Clarey said. “She knocked down 2 of 3 3-pointers in the first 4 minutes. That sparked us offensively. It also fired our girls up and kind of got our defense fired up.”

There were also 11 big rebounds and five steals from center Ella Zmolek, 10 points from Bailey Klote and eight points from freshman guard Madison Ohm.

Ohm has been something of a revelation for Chadd Clarey and this team. Clarey wasn’t sure what the skilled freshman’s role would be coming into the season. He knew she was good, but he quickly found out that she was even more ready to contribute than he figured.


“I wasn’t sure what her role was going to be going into the season,” Clarey said. “But she has now been a starter for us the second half of the year. For her to have stepped up and helped beat a team like Lakeville South in that type of atmosphere and game was something. She didn’t play like a freshman. She played like she’d been there before. Madison is a confident shooter and has got great ball-handling skills.”

P-E-M delivers kindness toward referees

PLAINVIEW — The movement to show greater respect and appreciation toward referees is spreading in southeastern Minnesota.

The latest example is at Plainview-Elgin-Millville where the P-E-M Girls Basketball Booster Club has organized a show of support for basketball officials.

The club, along with its girls varsity players, has been putting together a care package of snacks and a drink this season that they land in the referees’ locker room after halftime of each P-E-M home game. The referees collect those goodies after the game, which are accompanied by a signed thank-you note from each of the Bulldogs players and their coaches.

P-E-M coach Wyatt Nelson loves this move. He understands the difficulty of refereeing and also knows there is a shortage of them.

“Being a referee is a thankless job, and we need more of them,” Nelson said. “Our girls really enjoy doing it, and they’ve gotten really good feedback about it from the referees.”

Nelson has seen his players reaching out to referees during games recently as well. The short banter between them has loosened things up.

“Referees seem to be having more fun with it,” Nelson said. “And after the game, I hope it’s made them want to come to Plainview and referee again.”



St. Charles, Plainview-Elgin-Millville girls basketball
St. Charles’ Makadyn Gust (24) goes up for a shot during a girls basketball game against Plainview-Elgin-Millville on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022, at St. Charles High School in St. Charles.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Makadyn Gust, St. Charles

Gust has been on an absolute roll of late, with the St. Charles 5-foot-8 junior guard doing it in all departments. She continued that on Feb. 3 in a 65-52 win over Lewiston-Altura. Gust had a triple double, with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 steals. Gust followed that up with a 27-point explosion on Feb. 6 in a win over Mabel-Canton.

Triton senior Brylee Iverson has become her school's all-time leading scorer.

Brylee Iverson, Triton

Iverson became her school’s all-time leading scorer after managing 24 points in a win over La Crescent-Hokah. That gave the senior forward and eventual Southwest Minnesota State University player 1,592 points for her career. Iverson hit 8 of 19 shots from the field against La Crescent-Hokah and also had a massive night on the boards, with 16 rebounds.

Century, Winona girls basketball
Century’s Taylor Clarey (1) controls the ball during a girls basketball game against Winona on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at Century High School in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Taylor Clarey, Century

Still just a junior, Clarey surpassed 1,000 career points on Feb. 4 in an impressive 61-57 win over one of the best teams in the South Suburban Conference, Lakeville South. Clarey had 23 points along with 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. She hit 4 of 9 3-pointers.

Kaci Ruen, Lanesboro

The 6-foot senior scored 30 of her team’s 77 points as the Burros beat Southland on Jan. 30. Ruen, who also recently surpassed 1,000 points for her career, made 14 of 18 field goals against Southland. She also grabbed a whopping 16 rebounds and had 4 steals, 3 blocks and 2 assists.

Stewartville, Byron girls basketball
Stewartville’s Haylie Strum (2) controls the ball defended by Byron’s Kendra Harvey (24) during a girls basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022, at Stewartville High School in Stewartville.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin


Haylie Strum, Stewartville

The senior point guard is guiding one of the hottest and best teams in the state. Strum kept things warm against Kasson-Mantorville on Jan. 31, scoring 25 points and grabbing five rebounds in an 89-59 win.

Molly Bills, La Crescent

Bills scored 29 points on Jan. 31 as La Crescent-Hokah beat Lewiston-Altura 76-63. The 5-foot-9 senior guard also had 10 rebounds in the game, as well as four assists.


(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. Stewartville (20-2)

Stewartville makes it really easy to keep picking them No. 1. The Tigers haven’t lost a game in their last 17 tries. It has been a gauntlet that the Tigers have survived. Since Jan. 14, they’ve beaten winning teams Austin, Caledonia, Red Wing, Kasson-Mantorville, Goodhue and Lourdes. Red Wing, Lourdes and Goodhue are all top-10 ranked teams. Stewartville is No. 4 in Class AAA.

2. Goodhue (20-3)

The Wildcats had strung together 13 straight wins until falling to Stewartville on Feb. 2. Goodhue, ranked No. 4 in Class AA, is terrific on both ends of the floor, allowing just 45 ppg. while scoring 67. While Tori Miller and Elisabeth Gadient are both all-state caliber players, Kendyl Lodermeier has also turned into a handful. The 5-foot-11 sophomore has been a consistent double-figure scorer in recent games.

3. Lourdes (19-4)

There have been just four losses for the Eagles and two teams represent all of them — powerhouses Stewartville and Goodhue. Helping Lourdes recently has been a bit of offensive punch from a couple of youngsters, freshman forward Lauren Hust and eighth-grade guard Aaliyah Williams. Lourdes is ranked No. 9 in Cass AA. On Tuesday, the Eagles gave powerhouse Stewartville a serious run before losing.

4. Hayfield (19-3)

The Vikings are still highly regarded, ranked seventh in Class A. Their record is also great, at 19-3, and so is their average margin of victory — 16 points. But there have been some tougher-than-expected games recently, including two-point wins over NRHEG and Blooming Prairie, and a four-pointer against Rushford-Peterson. There was also a 59-54 loss to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown on Jan. 27. But there remains greatness here, with Kristen Watson and Natalie Beaver two of the top players around.

5. Caledonia (18-3)

Here is a team that seems to pummel everyone except the great teams. The pummeling is reflected in an average margin of victory that is nearly 20 points. The rare losing has happened against the top teams in Section 1AA and 1AAA, Lourdes, Goodhue and Stewartville. There are shooters galore on this Warriors outfit.


6. Grand Meadow (19-2)

The Superlarks are one of the hottest teams around, with 13 straight wins. And they nicely avenged one of their two losses, beating Kingsland 47-36 on Feb. 3. Sophomore forward Lauren Queensland continues to be one of southeastern Minnesota’s better players. She recently had an 18-point, 13-rebound game against Lanesboro. Grand Meadow is an awesome defensive team, allowing just 32 points per game.

7. Austin (15-6)

The Packers jump into these power rankings for the first time. They delivered an impressive 65-59 win over Red Wing on Feb. 2, then buried Century 57-27 on Tuesday. Ajiem Agwa had 20 points against the Panthers. Senior forward Olivia Walsh is one of the top all-around athletes in the area.

8. Mayo (17-4)

A pair of season-ending knee injuries to guards Taylor Hill and Kaia Kirkeby has put a large dent in these once-sizzling Spartans. Hill suffered hers in the second game of the season and Kirkeby hers on Jan. 21. With depth at guard now thin, Mayo had its 15-game winning streak broken on Jan. 30 by Red Wing, then lost again two games later against a middling Mankato West team, then again against strong team Mankato East. Whether the Spartans can recapture their season remains to be seen. There is still excellent talent there, just less of it.

9. Kingsland (16-5)

The Knights have ridden their athleticism to winning 10 of their last 11 games. They hound teams to the tune of allowing just 39 points per game. Kingsland split games this season with heavyweight Grand Meadow.

10. Century (14-7)

Century was thinking big things after stunning Lakeville South on Saturday. The Panthers got knocked back to earth (or below it) by getting wiped out by 30 points by Austin on Tuesday. Still, this is a strong Century team and one with wins in six of its last nine games.

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
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