By Gary Larson
Mille Lacs County Times
Sports teams strive to have a good season. Sometimes, when everything clicks, they have a great season.
A Milaca sixth grade girls travel basketball team had one of those great seasons this winter, rolling to a 20-4 record while capturing the championship in four of the seven tournaments it competed in.
The team capped its season by placing second at the Minnesota Youth Athletic Services (MYAS) State Division A State Tournament March 3-4 at Champlin Park High School.
Milaca opened its state bid by tipping East Ridge (Woodbury) 26-25, then handled Anoka 42-21. That victory moved the team to the semifinals where it topped Mendota Heights 32-25 in overtime to reach the championship game.
Richfield topped Milaca 35-24 in the title game.
“I think the players would agree that hard work and dedication pays off in the end and they were certainly hard workers who were dedicated to the team,” said coach Joe Paggen. “Our No. 1 rule was to have fun and I think this was a big part of our success.
“I think this is a team to be watching in the future, as it has all the pieces of the puzzle. We just need to keep building on our skills, hard work ethic and determination.
“I really enjoyed coaching these girls and I would like to thank the parents and players for showing the dedication it takes to have the kind of season the team had.”
Milaca, often competing against teams from larger communities, won weekend tournaments at Sartell, Braham, Foley and St. Cloud. Among the teams it defeated were Sartell, Willmar, Zimmerman, Ogilvie, Braham, Cambridge-Isanti, Onamia, Little Falls, Eden Valley-Watkins, Foley, Maple River and Crosby-Ironton.
Team members included Erika Maalis, Alyssa Nelson, Ellie Banks, Ashley Walker, Kellie Schmidt, Abby Forker, Sam Puffer and Kiley Paggen. Makayla Paggen helped coach the team.