State on the line: Blooming Prairie rides balance, Fillmore Central tenacity
The Blooming Prairie girls basketball team wants in.
Yes, the Blossoms want into the state tournament, but en route also into the glamorous sports scene that’s played out this school year at their high school.
That started this past fall, with the Blooming Prairie football team setting an enormous tone by winning a state championship. It’s extended into this winter, with the Blossoms boys basketball team ranked 10th in Class A and the girls team better still, at No. 9.
Blooming Prairie girls basketball coach John Bruns believes there is some contagion going on here. It’s the kind he likes.
"I think it was good for the girls to see the success the boys had in football," Bruns said. "I think our girls now want some of that, too. They start to see what it takes and understand it."
These Blossom girls have ridden that inspiration all the way to the Section 1A championship game, where they’ll take on Fillmore Central at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mayo Civic Arena.
Blooming Prairie (21-5) is the No. 1 seed, Fillmore Central (21-8) No. 2. The Blossoms are looking to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1999. The Fillmore Central girls have never made it there, but were in the section championship game in 2017.
Blooming Prairie and Fillmore Central have not met this season, though they have eyed each other. Falcons coach Levi Olstad watched what Blooming Prairie did to Hayfield in the section semifinals Saturday, carving it up with slick interior passing the second half and applying its usual tough defense in a 62-33 win.
Blooming Prairie fifth-year coach Bruns watched Fillmore Central devour Grand Meadow the entire first half with its trapping zone defense in the other semifinal, then hang on to win 43-41.
Bruns and Olstad both know they have their work cut out.
"Fillmore Central is a really athletic team," Bruns said. "They play their half-court trap so well and really get after teams. They also have two of the best offensive players in the section in (5-feet-8 center) Kandace Sikkink (17 ppg.) and (guard) Kassidy Broadwater (9 ppg.). And they have kids who can shoot. It’s nice to have that balance."
FALCONS GET AFTER IT
The reality is, Fillmore Central is not considered an outstanding shooting team. The Falcons have a number of players who can make shots, but few with golden touches. They make up for that by generating much of their offense from their defense, getting it done with a relentless style that includes players diving from all directions for loose balls.
That has sure worked. Playing in the difficult Three Rivers Conference, which is loaded with Class AA teams, the Falcons went 10-5. They did it while being led by three seniors, Broadwater, Sikkink and Emma Breitsprecher.
"Those three seniors have been playing ball together for a long time," Olstad said. "They work their tails off and have embraced that hard work. All of our girls have adapted to the idea that we can set the tone by attacking teams on the defensive side, by jumping into passing lanes and capitalizing on where the ball is likely to go."
Blooming Prairie has been just as good defensively, allowing just 39 points per game while scoring 56 per game.
The Blossoms have balance, and also a pair of stars. The latter are 5-11 junior forward Megan Oswald and sophomore point guard Bobbie Bruns.
Oswald, a physical and smooth player inside, averages 17 points and 12 rebounds. Bruns, a slick ballhandler who can also score, averages 13 points. They are complemented nicely by 5-10 senior forward Julia Worke (9 ppg.) and junior guard Maggie Bruns (5 ppg.).