CLASS A GIRLS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Minneota Vikings ready for Class A Tournament matchup with Red Lake

Independent file photo In this Feb. 18 file photo, Minneota’s Lizzy Gillingham drives past a Lac qui Parle Valley defender during their Camden Conference championship game.

MINNEOTA — For a second year in a row, the Minneota girls basketball team will be competing in the Class A State basketball tournament in search of the program’s first-ever state title. The Vikings, who finished last year’s campaign with a third-place finish, will call upon the experience of their four senior leaders to try to make a deeper run this time around beginning with today’s matchup against a young Red Lake squad with only one senior on roster.

“I think first of all they’ve been in this position before,” said Vikings Coach Chad Johnston. “This is the second state tournament for all of this group. Having that experience of being up there knowing what to expect, playing in the different facilities that you’re going to be playing in I think is kind of a huge benefit. I think they know what they’re capable of doing, and again there’s no reason for them to get shell-shocked.”

After entering last year’s tournament as the number four-seed, the Vikings (27-1) will be put in the unfamiliar position of playing as the number one-seed in this year’s tournament. Johnston believes the expectations that have surrounded them this season given their top-ranking throughout the year has served them well in combating the added pressure and expectations.

“I think they have been handling it really well,” said Johnston. “The fact that we’ve been at the top all year long I think helps and them knowing that that’s kind of the expectations that we had. You’re going to see a lot of other good teams. On any given night any of those teams can beat each other. You just have to be confident in what you’re doing, and go out and play the way you’ve been playing all year long.”

Their opponent in Red Lake (20-7) is returning to the state tournament for the second time in three seasons after making the trip during the 2016-2017 season. Two members of that team–senior Angel McClain (17.72 points per game) and junior Gerika Kingbird (16.11 ppg) have provided the scoring punch for the Lady Warriors this season.

Johnston anticipates a tough test from the the two top-scorers in addition to some press defense on the other end of the floor.

“I’m expecting some pressure out of the full court,” said Johnston. “We haven’t seen a lot of pressing, not man to man, so that might be different. On offense they’ve got three consistent scorers that I’ve now seen scores for four different games, and three girls that are consistently in double-digits. We definitely have to work on perimeter defense and closing on people.”

Tip-off for the first-round action between the Vikings and Lady Warriors begins at 11 a.m. at Maturi Pavilion. If Minneota advances, they will play at noon on Friday at Williams Arena.