Winona runs away from Northfield
Two players entered within shouting distance of 1,000 points, but it turned out to be another number that mattered most in the Section 1AAA showdown between Winona and Northfield. 21. As in, 21 steals for Winona that the Winhawks converted…
Two players entered within shouting distance of 1,000 points, but it turned out to be another number that mattered most in the Section 1AAA showdown between Winona and Northfield.
As in, 21 steals for Winona that the Winhawks converted into 27 points.
Those numbers proved decisive in Winona's convincing 59-40 victory over the Raiders after the Big 9 rivals had split two games during the regular season. Winona ended the half on a 10-2 run, then scored 8 straight early in the second half to basically put the game away.
Eden Nibbelink turned in a virtuoso performance. The 6-2 forward scored 24 points to reach 1,000 points, drilled 4-8 from downtown and recorded 5 of Winona's 21 steals.
Northfield point guard Grace Touchette scored 14 points to finish her junior year with exactly 1,000 points.
Winona advances to state riding an 11-game winning streak and hoping to improve on last season's second-place finish to Holy Angels. The notoriously streaky team appears to be peaking at the right time — again.
I called Section 1AAA the best in the state thanks to three teams being ranked in the Top 10 most (all?) year with quality depth below, but the Winhawks just won three section games by a total of 88 points. They'd lost to Kasson-Mantorville and Northfield by 18 and 21 during the regular season.
MVP — Nibbelink
The 6-2 forward is a Miss Basketball finalist headed to Division I Fairfield and she showed all the goods Thursday night. If she's scoring well, this Winona team is very, very difficult to beat.
Maria Appicelli earned a scholarship to Bemidji State after a strong summer with MN Fury after coming off the bench last season for Winona. Her Thursday was filled with peaks and valleys. On one hand, the 5-7 guard is money if she's open and she drops dimes with flair. On the other hand, she loves making one-handed passes and got herself in trouble with three straight turnovers in the second half to earn a seat next to Coach Gleason. Still, she brings a lot to the table and really excels playing next to Winona's other pieces.
Speaking of Gleason, my video of his emotional celebration after defeating Kasson-Mantorville last season got him some teasing. His father, the long-time band director, had recently passed away and he wanted to recognize the Winona band. This year, he simply jumped into an assistant's arms on the sidelines.
Northfield's Tony Mathison was unable to find a way to his Raiders untracked offensive against Winona's length and aggressiveness. The guys sitting behind me still found ways to compliment him though.
Guy 1: Do you know Tony? He's just a really nice guy.
Guy 2: Yeah, and he's got really great hair, too.
How's that for some hard-hitting hoops analysis?
Best inside presence — Annika Hoff
Northfield's junior post edges out Danneka Voegeli here. I had Hoff down for 6 blocks to go with her 8 points. When it was a half court game, she really locked down the paint. Unfortunately for Northfield, Winona's pressure turned this into a track meet late in the first half and the Raiders never recovered.
Voegeli finished with 8 points and 4 steals, routinely jumping passing lanes while putting her athleticism on display. NDSU is getting a good one.
No Kidd-ing around
Senior Kaylyn Kidd was, perhaps, the driving force in Northfield's victory over Kasson-Mantorville in the semifinals. She poured in 17 points, attacked the basket relentlessly and showed great anticipation on defense.
That's not a huge surprise, as she tied with Touchette to lead the Raiders in scoring at just under 12 PPG. We have her #69 in our final 2017 rankings, though that's probably a little high for her.
Kidd's night mirrored Northfield's as a whole. She scored 5 points early, including a trey, then managed just 2 more the rest of the way.
Winona awaits its state seeding this weekend. The top three seeds should be Holy Angels, Winona and Orono — in some order. If history is any indication, the metro teams will get the benefit of the doubt in the seeding process.
Northfield posted a program-record 22 wins, but will need some guards to step up to replicate that next season. Touchette returns — and that's huge — but the Raiders graduate three other guards, including starter Vanessa Dimick. The Raiders return more inside with four posts standing at least 6-foot returning, headlined by Hoff, but they'll sorely miss Kidd's scoring and aggressiveness.