CLASS AAA GIRLS BASKETBALL: Tigers prepare for state tournament opener against No. 3 Becker

Photo by Sam Thiel The Marshall girls basketball team celebrates after defeating No. 1 Waseca in the Section 2AAA championship game on Thursday. The Tigers will begin state tournament play today against No. 3 seed Becker.

MARSHALL – After a short absence, the Marshall girls basketball team is back and ready to make some noise in the state tournament. The Tigers make their 12th state appearance, and coming after an emotional victory over No. 1 seeded Waseca in the Section 2AAA championship, Marshall coach Dan Westby knows they need to continue to bring a similar effort as they did in the section tournament going into this week.

“We were really excited for our kids; they really played hard and it was a great effort and that’s the effort we’re going to need from here on out,” Westby said. Everyone we play here on out is a great team so we’re going to have to see if we can duplicate the same thing at the state tournament.”

Marshall enters the tournament as a random draw with a 21-7 record where it will face the No. 3 seed Becker Bulldogs. Offensively, the Tigers have averaged roughly 57.3 points per game while holding their opponents to just 48.1 points per game.

Westby said this week they’ve worked on getting in extra shots as well as their half-court defense to prepare for the Bulldogs.

“We were hoping to practice on Saturday, but we got snowed out. But we’ve been doing a lot of extra shooting in practice and we’re going to have to work on some things here (Monday),” Westby said. “We’re going to have to work on getting the ball quickly and start heading our direction after a score as well as defending in the half-court. They’re a very good half-court offensive team, so they’ve got a lot of things that concern us.”

The Bulldogs (25-4) enter on a hot streak like the Tigers, with Becker winning its last eight consecutive games. In addition to their two seniors, the Bulldogs are led by a young core comprised of three juniors, six sophomores, three freshmen and three eighth-graders.

Leading the way for Becker is Adeline Kent and Julia Bengtson, who average 17.71 and 17.54 points per game, respectively, as well as Courtney Nuest (10.42 ppg, 6.08 rebounds per game). This season, Becker has averaged 73.4 points per game while limiting their opponents to just 52 points per game.

“They’re a young team. They start four sophomores and a freshman and they’re really guard-heavy. They press full-court man-to-man and they like to run, so it’ll be an up-and-down game. They’ve got a couple of guards that are averaging 17 points per game each, so it’ll be a tough matchup for us,” Westby said. “We’re going to try and do more of the same as we did versus Waseca, we’re going to try and mix defenses a little bit and see if we can find some ways to slow them down.”

Marshall will face Becker today at 4 p.m. at the Maturi Pavilion at the University of Minnesota. Westby said going into the tournament, they just need to play with confidence and stick to their gameplan.

“Hopefully we’ll handle the moment well, we’ve only got one player that was actually on that team (2016 state team) and that’s Kaia Sueker. We just got to go into it and just treat it like we did the last couple of section games at Gustavus,” Westby said. “It’s on a college court which as I mentioned we had our last two games on, so that shouldn’t be a change. We just have to go into it knowing that we can win; the team we’re playing is very good but we’ve just got to go into it knowing if we continue to do what we’ve been doing, we’ll be successful.”