MINNEAPOLIS – Last season, the Minneota girls basketball team relied on a young core of players to lead them to a state tournament appearance. With all of their starters returning from a year ago, the Vikings have been able to hold a top ranking throughout the season and into the state tournament, where Minneota will look to finish where it started in the Class A championship game today.

Minneota coach Chad Johnston said they’ve been fortunate to rely on their experience and a tradition of hard work and dedication to formulate a path to success.

“We’ve really been very fortunate, we’ve been up here quite a bit and have had a lot of different players go through our program. One of the things I always say about tradition is with that comes a little bit of pressure; I always say I think that nobody wants to be that group to drop the ball, it motivates them in the offseason,” Johnston said. “We’re very fortunate that these girls not only have success in basketball, they have great success in volleyball and I think those two things feed off each other. The thing that I think I’m most proud of these girls is yes, we have a tradition to work hard, they’re a hard-working group in multiple sports, but they handle the pressure that we put on them. When we say this is what we expect, this group, preseason No. 1, they’ve pretty much stayed the course all year long. A lot of that comes from experience but just having that tradition; the young girls get to have this experience and we hope they feed off that and continue to work hard in the offseason.”

Johnston added when it comes to the state tournament, it’s key for them to be able to have not just their seniors but their underclassmen step up and provide a boost when they need one.

“Having that experience is key and we’ve said that. Lots of times your response in this situation is to look at your seniors and say this is your game and this is the time for you to step up and do those things,” Johnston said. “Fortunately, we’ve got two Hennen girls who aren’t seniors but basically have been playing for three years. They all stepped up and I thought we needed momentum and Abby did a phenomenal job of helping the seniors, but that’s just the experience that we’ve had from being here before. When it came down to crunch time, they’re all confident in what they’re capable of doing.”