The 16th trip to the state tournament for the New London-Spicer Wildcats has so far been a happy one as Megan Thorson scored 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead them to a 58-44 win over the third seeded Minnehaha Academy Redhawks in the Class AA quarterfinals Wednesday night at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
The Wildcats 16 trips to state are the most of any team in state tournament history. Head coach Mike Dreier, in his 38th year guiding New London-Spicer, picked up win number 862.
Now to the game. The Wildcats started the game in a 2-3 zone defense that kept the game scoreless until Thorson scored 1:32 into the first half. Terra Rhodes would open the scoring for the Redhawks to even the score at two. New London-Spicer would go on a 6-0 run with three players tallying. They were Alyssa Fredrick, Kabrie Weber and Thorson. Also breaking into the scoring column was Shea Oman, the lone Wildcat sophomore. She would head down the court like a Green Line train going down Washington Ave. and score. Terra Rhodes would heat up for Minnehaha Academy as she scored six straight points. Sarah Kaminski, one of only two Redhawk seniors (the other is Tory Kronschnabel) would score to even the game at 12. New London-Spicer would go on a 5-0 run that included a three pointer from Brooke Beuning. Once again, it was Terra Rhodes who would factor into the Minnehaha Academy equation when she helped put the Redhawks ahead with a three pointer. But the lead wouldn’t last when New London-Spicer would go on a 7-0 run that would included four straight points from Thorson. Weber would also shine on defense, blocking a Terra Rhodes shot. Terra Rhodes would end the Wildcats run with a three pointer. Weber would respond with a shot from Stadium Village and once again Thorson would score four straight points to help New London-Spicer lead 30-21 at halftime.
The Wildcats would begin the second half on a 4-0 run and Morgan Swenson made a fine block of Taytum Rhodes’ shot. There would be a bright spot for the Redhawks as Mia Curtis, the only eighth grader for head coach Josh Thurow would score five straight points. Kaminiski narrowed the New London-Spicer margin to six with four straight points. Could the young Redhawks catch up to the Wildcats? It wouldn’t happen as New London Spicer got three pointers from Lindsey Vagle and Fredrick. Avery New would score after Terra Rhodes and Nevaeh Galloway missed inside shots. Kaminiski would hit a three pointer to cut the lead to five. Thorson would convert on a shot that bounced high off the glass and into the net. Minnehaha Academy still had a good chance to catch up as New’s basket cut the lead to four. However,she picked up her fourth foul with 5:16 to go. New London-Spicer would forge ahead as Oman hit three free throws after being fouled by Terra Rhodes. Vagle would hit two free throws and Oman’s three pointer would give New London-Spicer breathing room since the lead went up to 10. Oman would score five straight points and the Wildcats didn’t have to shoot as they ran down the clock. But Dreier called a time out with :10.9 left and gave the reserves a chance to experience the state tournament.
Oman was the only other scorer in double figures for the Wildcats with 13 points. Terra Rhodes led the Redhawks with 22 points. Kaminski had 12 points and four steals. Curtis also had four steals.
New London-Spicer improved their record to 24-6 and will face the Sauk Centre Mainstreeters in the Class AA semifinals on Friday, March 18 at 8 PM at Williams Arena on he University of Minnesota campus. The two teams met December 22 with the Manstreeters routing the Wildcats 54-37. Minnehaha Academy ended their season with a 25-4 record. The Redhawks, with six sophomores, four freshman and an eighth grader could be one of the top Class AA teams next season.