CLASS AAA GIRLS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Young Tigers gaining valuable exposure

MINNEAPOLIS – One of the biggest storylines coming into the Class AAA quarterfinal game between Marshall and No. 3 seed Becker Wednesday wasn’t their veteran leadership. Instead, it was about the youthful factor the two teams featured.

With just a combined five seniors, both the Tigers and Bulldogs relied on the fountain of youth in their state opener, with a number of sophomores and freshmen seeing significant minutes. Becker’s starting lineup features four sophomores and a freshman while Marshall starts a pair of sophomores.

Marshall was led by sophomore Jordyn Hilgemann, who scored a game-high 26 points while fellow sophomore Emily Meier added 18 points as well as collecting three rebounds and dishing out four assists. Sophomore Corrin Naughton also added three points and five rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench for the Tigers.

Marshall coach Dan Westby said with the high volume of underclassmen they have on their roster, he’s been pleased with how they have taken over their roles in a short amount of time and hopes the experience of the state tournament will pay off in the future.

“I was really proud of our kids,” Westby said. “We played a number of sophomores and what a great deal for them. Hopefully this will help us down the road.”

The Tigers have had to depend on a mix of youth and experience on their roster throughout the last few seasons. With all but one player making their state tournament debut this week, Marshall hopes this high-level exposure of play will continue to help their team succeed.

That one player with tournament experience is Kaia Sueker, who was on Marshall’s last state team in 2016. The senior guard offered a few words of advice to her teammates before they stepped onto the floor Wednesday, saying they needed to compete hard and play with confidence and felt they were able to do just that.

“I just thought we needed to come out strong and just fight hard together,” Sueker said. “Another thing is to just have a lot of confidence and I thought just seeing in my teammates we had a lot of confidence in each other. Being on the court and knowing where we are and I was just really proud of my teammates.”