At this time of season the win-loss slate is wiped clean as a new journey begins for the Milaca High School girls basketball team.
From here on out the only thing that keeps a team in contention to play another day is a win.
“It’s playoff time and we start at 0-0,” Milaca High School girls basketball coach Dave Leom told his team following a 59-51 win at Foley on Monday night.
The clash at Foley was a make-up game from a couple weeks back when school was called off due to the frigid weather conditions.
Frigid or not, the Wolves must forge ahead in Section 5AA North tournament action by playing host to the St. Cloud Cathedral Crusaders before a warm home crowd at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Milaca gymnasium.
Milaca fans are reminded to take note of the early start, while they should also be aware that no regular season passes will be accepted for section tournaments.
Last year the Wolves competed in Section 7AA and advance to the semifinals.
But, first things first.
The business at hand is to post a win over the Crusaders in order to see the next round.
During regular season play the teams split with the Wolves posting a 59-55 win back on Feb. 12, while just after the holiday break a road trip saw Milaca coming out on the short end of a 46-32 score.
Entering tourney play on Thursday the Wolves are the No. 4 seed, while the Crusaders are seeded No. 5, making for a good match up.
Adding to the excitement will be the fact securing a home court during the playoffs isn’t something that happens every day.
“This is the first time we have had a playoff game in a very long time,” recalled Milaca second-year head coach Leom.
With the late make-up date, the Wolves tacked on another win for an overall record of 13-10, giving them a three-game winning streak leading into play on Thursday.
Milaca 59, Foley 51
With play going back-and-forth early on, the first half proved to be pretty balanced, with the Wolves closing out regular season play stopping the Falcons 59-51 Monday night.
Milaca managed to hang onto a slim 28-27 advantage as the horn sounded for the intermission.
In looking back at the game, Leom stated, “we were actually down by seven into the second half as we just went cold and couldn’t hit our shots.”
With approximately eight minutes to go Leom saw his team down by five points.
Making a quick run, the Wolves surged ahead, while at the 4:49 mark Ashley Cassens drained a three-pointer to put Milaca out front by a single point.
Cassens finished with nine points on this night, however Leom pointed to that three-pointer as being “huge and it really sparked us.”
Foley wasn’t about to call it quits, as they trimmed the lead near the end, before Molly Banks stepped in.
“She was unbelievable as she missed only one shot all night, going 8-8 at the line and recorded 6-7 from the field, good for 20 points,” Leom said.
What was termed “a great defensive play,” by the Wolves mentor, Cassens stole a pass and put it back up for what turned out to be a four-point play.
“That proved to be big,” Leom stated.
Leom looked at the game as a great tune-up as Foley is the No. 3 in the upcoming tournament.
“I couldn’t ask for a better game to measure ourselves to see where we are at,” concluded Leom.
Milaca 69, Mora 46
On Feb. 28 the Wolves hosted Senior Night, with only one senior listed on the 2014 roster.
With 14 players on the Milaca roster, the senior honor goes to Sarah Forker, leaving the cupboard in pretty good shape for next season.
“We jumped out early and put a lot of pressure on them, while causing a lot of commotion on defense.
Having four players in double figures on the offensive charts is something to cheer about.
“We put on a lot of pressure and caused a lot of miscues,” Leom stated.
Makayla Paggen led the Wolves four-pronged attack with 18 points, followed by Megan Dahlstrom with 16.
Banks netted 13, while helping the cause on defense, with Forker recording 10 points on her senior recognition night.
Milaca roared to a 32-15 lead at the half-way point and never looked back.
A game like this allows the coaching staff to get several players involved.
At the same time, “we shut down one of their top players and that made it frustrating for them,” Leom added.
The win completed a season sweep over Mora, leading Leom to add, “it’s good to beat a local rival for once.”
Milaca 49, Pine City 32
With only a two-point lead of 18-16 in early play against Pine City at the Milaca gymnasium on Thursday (Feb. 27) night Leom attributed that to “we started out really slow in the first half, up only two points at the break.”
Leom added, “we just missed too many shots as we had them but they just were not falling, with a lid on the rim.”
However, the Wolves managed to post a 49-32 win over the Dragons.
With a “lid on the rim,” we were up against a team that plays a very deliberate game and doesn’t allow a lot of team to score a lot of points,” Leom stated.
He quickly added, “we need to take advantage of this.”
In the second half the Wolves came out of the locker room and began to put the pressure on.
“They play a very deliberate game and don’t allow a lot of teams to score points,” Leom added.
The Milaca mentor added, “we just need to take advantage of what we have.”
Banks had another good outing with 13 points, while Cassens finished out with 11 points.
For Leom, his concentration has since shifted to the task at hand, hoping this win has started a streak that carries on for a long period of time.
However he stated, “it’s nice to get a win just prior to tournament play.”