•  Minnewaska girls earn 20 victories during great season that ends just two wins short of state

The Minnewaska Area girls basketball team had another great season in 2023-24.  The Lakers went 20-9 overall this winter, including a 10-2 mark in the WCC to place second behind Sauk Centre.

Minnewaska Area, which went 12-13 two years ago, was coached again by Sidney Barker, who was assisted by Emily Roering, Makenzie Larsen and Josh Greene.

The Lakers started the season off at 3-0, but then lost four of their next six games to fall to 5-4.  Minnewaska then won six-straight game to improve to 11-4.  After going 3-3 over its next six games to stand 14-7, the Lakers won six of their final eight games, including a 71-38 win over Litchfield in the section opener and a 66-29 rout of KMS in the sub-section semifinals, before losing to NLS in the sub-section championship game at Willmar, 52-42.

The Lakers trailed by only two points, 31-29, with 15:18 left in the second half against the Wildcats, who went on to go 1-2 at state after beating Windom Area for the Section 3AA title, 80-40.  

However, NLS outscored 13-4 over the next 10 minutes to take a 44-33 lead with just under six minutes left in the game before the Lakers mounted one last rally bid that fell short.

With both NLS and Minnewaska fielding young teams, it could be the same two teams back in the sub-section finals again next season.

“All of us coaches are so proud of the players and what they give throughout the season,” Laker head coach Sidney Barkers said.  “The basketball season is long, but our players gave everything they had in the playoffs; they played relentless basketball and fought until the end.”

Sauk Centre won this year’s WCC title with a 12-0 record, followed by Minnewaska Area (10-2), West Central area and BOLD (both 7-5), Morris Area-CA (4-8), Melrose Area (2-10) and Montevideo (0-12).

The only senior on this year’s Minnewaska Area girls basketball roster was Avery Fier.  

Season statistics

The Lakers shot 38 percent from the field this year, including 42 percent on two-point field goal attempts and 28 percent from 3-point range.  Minnewaska Area also shot 57 percent from the line and averaged 57.2 points per game while giving up 43.9 points per game.

Sydney Dahl, Megan Thorfinnson, Addy Kath and Lauryn Ankeny led the Lakers in the top statistical categories.

Dahl had 374 points and averaged 12.9 points per game to lead the Lakers, while Thorfinnson had 326 total points and averaged 11.2 points per contest.

Minnewaska had eight players with at least 100 points as Ankeny had 196 points (6.8 average), Kath had 191 (6.6), Avery Fier had 161 (5.6), Alia Randt totaled 153 points (5.3), Olivia Danielson had 120 (4.1) and Jayda Kolstoe had 111 points for the season (3.8 ppg).  Those were the top eight players for the Lakers and who saw the majority of action for the team this winter.

Thorfinnson led the Lakers with 68 assists, while Dahl had a team-best 43 blocks this season, Kath led the Lakers with 189 rebounds, and Ankeny had a team-high 92 steals this winter.

Dahl had the second-most rebounds with 157, followed in the top-five by Ankeny (106), Randt (91) and Danielson (90), while Kath had the second-most assists after Thorfinnson with 54, followed by Randt with 43, Dahl with 42 and Ankeny and Danielson with 40 each.

And, Thorfinnson was second on the team with 70 steals, followed by Randt with 58, Kath with 56 and Danielson with 38, while Ankeny had the second-most blocks with 15 and Thorfinnson was third with 13.

The top shooter on two-point field goal attempts this year was Avery Fier, who made 63 percent of her two-point tries and Olivia Danielson (46 percent).  Fier also led the team in 3-point accuracy, making 37 percent of her tries from long range, while Dahl was second at 36 percent.

The top free-throw shooters for the Lakers this year were Fier (74 percent), Olivia Danielson (71 percent) and Thorfinnson (69 percent).

•  The Lakers, who gave up an average of 43.9 points per game to their opponents, had six 20-point games this year, all of which came from Dahl and Thorfinnson.

Dahl had a season-high 25 points during a loss to Redwood Valley late in the year, and also had 21 points during an early 47-45 loss to Paynesville,  and 20 points during a win over Barnesville midway through the season.

Thorfinnson had season-highs of 22 points in the opener, 21 points during a 56-51 loss to NLS early in the season and 21 points during a late-season win over West Central area.

The Lakers had a very balanced season of rebounding with six different players leading the team in rebounding at least one during the season.  Addy Kath is the only player with double-digit rebounds for a game as she had 11 rebounds in three-straight games late in the season against Montevideo, Sauk Centre and Redwood Valley, and also had 11 boards against WCA late in the year and two 10-rebound games midway through the season.

Coach Barker is excited about the prospects for her team in the future and knows they will continue to work hard to show further improvement.  “Our team is such a wonderful group on and off the court and I have no doubt they will bring that same energy in the off season to get better for next season!”

•  This year’s varsity roster includes senior Avery Fier; juniors Addy Kath, Lauren Stryhn, Sydney Dahl, Megan Thorfinnson, Dacia Fleury and Amber Peabody; and sophomores Alia Randt, Lauryn Ankeny, Olivia Danielson, Carly Jergenson, Kendall Danielson and Jayda Kolstoe.

Members of the B-squad team include juniors Lauren Stryhn, Dacia Fleury and Amber Peabody; sophomores Phemie Oeltjen, Aubrey Stark, Carly Jergenson and Kendall Danielson; ninth-graders Eliana Marthaler, Haillie Schulz and Norah VanZee; and eighth-grader Berlynn Green, and members of the C-squad team are ninth-grader Claira Frey; and eighth-graders Mileigh Lundebrek, Miranda Grossman, Sydney Ankeny, Molly Cassidy, Lillie Ogdahl, Michaela Johnson, Sadie Danielson, Peyton Sundheim, Hannah Hoeper and Ella Larson.

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