The Minnewaska Area girls basketball team opened up official practices Monday, Nov. 14 in preparation for the season opener Thursday, Nov. 29 at home against Lac qui Parle Valley.

The Lakers, coached by Sidney Schiffler, went 16-10 overall last year, which included a 7-4 mark in the West Central Conference.

Montevideo won its first-ever WCC girls’ title in school history last year with an 11-1 league mark, followed by Sauk Centre (9-3), BOLD (8-4), Minnewaska Area (7-4), Morris Area-CA (4-8), Melrose Area (2-10) and Benson (0-11).  

The Lakers and Benson Braves only played 11 league games last year because a late-season game was canceled due to weather and there wasn’t enough time for a makeup date.

The season came to an end for the Lakers last winter during the Section 3AA opener when Minnewaska fell to West Central Area (60-39), a team which joined the WCC for all sports this school year.

WCA went on to lose to Montevideo in the next round (39-37) and Montevideo beat NLS (41-26) and Fairmont (43-32) to win the section title and a berth at state.  At state, the Thunderhawks lost to top-seeded Providence Academy in the quarterfinals, 68-55, before beating Rochester Lourdes (56-54) and losing to Pequot Lakes (60-44) to finish sixth in the Class AA state tourney.

“We’re looking forward to the season,” coach Sidney Schiffler said.  “Our season last year included a win against state contender Montevideo, and we return a number of key players from that team.”

Last year, the Lakers had three All-Conference players in Maddie Thorfinnson, Addy Randt and Brooke Kolstoe, while Addy Kath was on the honorable mention team. Thorfinnson, who graduated, ended her high school career with two all-time Laker records, one in blocked shots (157 in her career) and one in steals (247 for her career). 

Randt has also graduated, but Kolstoe is a senior and Kath is a sophomore this winter, although she is injured to start the season.

“Among the other returning key players for the Lakers are sophomores Megan Thorfinnson and Sydney Dahl,” coach Schiffler said.

Assisting Schiffler this year are Emily Roering, Makenzie Larsen, Josh Greene, eighth-grade coach Linda Mills and seventh-grade coach Gabe Eisenbacher.

• Last year’s 17-person All-WCC team for 2021-22 included three players each from BOLD, Minnewaska Area, Montevideo, Morris Area-CA and Sauk Centre, along with one each from Benson and Melrose Area.

The All-Conference team included two freshman, one sophomore, seven juniors, and seven seniors.

Montevideo junior Avery Koenen earned her second-straight WCC Most Valuable Player honor, while Minnewaska senior Maddie Thorfinnson, who was selected as the WCC Offensive Player of the Year the previous season, was selected the Defensive Player of the Year last year, and Sauk Centre junior Jenna Gapinski-Vogt was chosen as the Offensive Player of the Year.

With two-time MVP Avery Koenen returning for Montevideo, the Thunderhawks will be among the conference favorites this year along with Sauk Centre, BOLD and WCC newcomer West Central Area.