Winona Cotter has made a big jump in our power rankings, going from unranked to No.3. That’s what a nine-game winning streak, including a win over the previously undefeated Goodhue, will do for a team.
One of the main contributors to all of the Ramblers’ strong games has been Sofia Sandcork, who lit things up from a distance of 3 points.
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1. Sofia Sandcork, Winona Cotter
The senior forward has sizzled with her shot this year. Never has Sandcork been better and more deadly than on Monday, December 27, in a 69-48 victory over the previously undefeated Goodhue, scoring 32 points and scoring seven 3 points. Sandcork started again three days later, burying six 3-pointers en route to a 29-point game against Worthington. Sandcork averages 18.7 ppg.
2. Hannah Hanson, Mayo
The junior star of Mayo’s three sports – volleyball, track and field, basketball – now appears to have hit his basketball pace a handful of weeks into the season. Hanson was at his best in the Rotary tournament, scoring 26 points in an unbalanced win over New Richmond (Wis.), Then 25 in a narrow victory over Byron. Hanson is more than a goalscorer though, with the 5-foot-8 goaltender using her speed, strength and tenacity to get things done all over the court.
3. Lilly Meister, John Marshall
Meister did what she could on Tuesday in a narrow loss to Bloomington Kennedy, and did it the best she could. The Rockets finished with 45 points and the soft, strong, and soft Meister had 33, bringing them in and out.
4. Natalie Bremer, Lake City
Bremer is in her fifth year with the University of the Tigers and she’s added to her game every season. The senior was at her best on Tuesday in an impressive 74-63 win over Totino-Grace, scoring 33 points.
5. Kendra Harvey, Byron
Get used to seeing Harvey’s name in this space over the next three years, as she’s only a first year. The 5-foot-8 guard was silky-smooth against Bloomington Jefferson on Tuesday, scoring 26 points in his team’s 59-51 victory.
(Editor’s note: These rankings are considered “pound-for-pound” rankings, similar to many ranking systems in boxing and mixed martial arts. They represent the top teams in Southeastern Minnesota, compared to the class they play in.)
1. Austin (8-0)
Austin, number 2, did nothing but win. He had a serious test, with Mankato East doubling extra time on December 23 before Austin won 73-66. The Packers have one real star, senior guard Hope Dudycha. But they also have a great balance. By beating Farmington on the road Thursday, Austin had four players with at least 12 points. It averages 67 ppg.
2. Hayfield (11-0)
Hayfield is ranked No.6 in Class A, a ranking that seems a bit low for such a good group. The Vikings are balanced, but they also have a “Big Two” in Kristin Watson and Natalie Beaver. These two sophomores combined for 45 points in the team’s most recent victory.
3. Winona Cotter (9-2)
There is no team warmer than Cotter. The Ramblers, after losing their first two games, have won nine straight wins. This includes a particularly impressive game against the previously undefeated Goodhue 69-48. It was in this game that goalkeeper Sofia Sandcork really started to make a name for herself, with 32 points. Cotter lacks depth, but his starting five is a tough game.
4. Stewartville (6-2)
After losing his first two games, both against powerful teams, Stewartville has not lost since. This includes one-sided wins over tough teams Albert Lea and Lourdes, and a five-point victory over the excellent Byron. The Tigers also have a “Big Two” in junior guards Haylie Strum and Keeley Steele.
5. Happiness (8-1)
Goodhue didn’t just beat his opponents, he wiped them out. The Wildcats win games with an average score of 71-42. They eventually suffered a loss, and it was also resounding, 69-48 against sizzling Winona Cotter. Another tough contest looms on January 7, with Goodhue taking on tough guy Byron.
6. City of the lake (7-2)
The Tigers are tough to beat, even without Lilly Meincke (out for the season after knee surgery). It’s seniors Natalie Bremer and Mya Shones that make Lake City so great. Bremer scores en masse and plays peddling defense, while the 6-foot-1 Shones are sticking to their inside game (10 points, 13 rebounds in a win last week over White Bear Lake).
7. Byron (4-3)
Coaches constantly preach to their teams to ‘play hard’. With Byron, coach Jeremy Baumbach’s pleas caught on. It’s hard to find a more determined group than these Bears. Just ask Mayo, who barely had enough to hold back the refusal to leave Byron in the Rotary tournament. The bodies were constantly on the floor in that one.
8. Mayo (5-3)
Mayo begins to have Hannah Hanson at her best. It’s scary for everyone. Not far from volleyball season, Hanson’s shooting form sets in, including she begins to drain 3 points. Southeast Minnesota’s most athletic player (track star, volleyball star), Hanson has won 26 and 25 point games in the Rotary tournament. And she’s not all Mayo has, with quickness across her lineup and enough shotmakers.
9. Dover-Eyota (8-2)
Dover-Eyota isn’t a one-girl team, but the Eagles have “one” girl who stands out. Senior 5-foot-8 goaltender Malia Nelson averages over 30 points per game and has been an all-out threat to the defense, hovering around six steals per game.
10. Lourdes (6-3)
Lourdes just played what will probably be the best team they’ll see all season, the AAAA Rosemount class. It didn’t go particularly well for the Eagles (losing 61-42), especially after halftime. Still, Lourdes played the entire game and showed the range of his talents, inside and out, and with one of the best playmakers, CJ Adamson.
Cotter cruising as Sandcork landed
Veteran Coach Winona Cotter Pat Bowlin knew his team would be great this season. Heck, the Ramblers under Bowlin are good every year.
But it seemed a little different, with veterans such as Megan Morgan, Sofia sandcork, Will Speltz, Olivia gardner and Allyssa williams including Cotter’s initial training.
Having started their season with two losses against top 10 teams Mayer Lutheran and Sauk Center, the Ramblers haven’t lost since, taking nine straight wins. That includes a particularly impressive 69-48 triumph on December 27 against the previously undefeated Goodhue.
This contest also marked the real exit party for 5-foot-9 forward Sandcork. Sandcork had 32 points in that one and lit things from a distance of 3 points, draining 7 of 9 attempts from there.
As if to show it was no fluke, Sandcork followed with a 29-point game three days later in a narrow victory over Worthington, with another six 3-pointers.
It was quite a jump for the senior, who after averaging 11 points per game last year, has taken that number to 18.7 this season, the team’s top. Morgan is just below her at 17.6 points per game.
Sandcork shoots an excellent 37% out of 3.
“Sofia has improved a lot over the course of her career,” Bowlin said. “She’s become a great 3-point shooter and is also much better at dribbling than she was before. Plus, she consistently scores around the rim, able to shoot with both hands. Sofia just had a very good offensive game, and she won for us in the big games. She was one of the best players in the region.
And Cotter has a great team.
“We’re playing really well right now,” said Bowlin. “As a coach you really like watching good basketball. We have five children who can all really be successful.
1000 points for Torgerson
Houston junior forward Sydney torgerson had another big game scoring on Tuesday, Dec. 28, scoring 19 points in a narrow victory over Lester Prairie. What’s even more important for Torgerson, who arrived last year as a star to help the Hurricanes at the state tournament, is that it earned him over 1,000 points for his career.
100 career victories
Stewartville Coach Ryan liffrig notched the 100th victory of his career last week. Liffrig and his team did this on Wednesday, Dec. 29 in the Rotary Holiday Classic with a rout from New Richmond (Wis.). Stewartville defeated Owatonna on Tuesday, December 28 at Rotary. The Tigers have won six in a row and are now 6-2 overall.