Lady Spartans win 2, set up section final rematch

By MIKE ANDREW
FOR THE PIONEER

Orono’s Alayna Eichstadt, working back from an earlier injury, sets the Spartan offense against the Blake Bears. (Submitted photo)
Orono’s Alayna Eichstadt, working back from an earlier injury, sets the Spartan offense against the Blake Bears. (Submitted photo)

Entering what Coach Glover-Verhagen affectionately calls the “win or go home” phase, the Orono Lady Spartans kept their season going with two convincing wins last week in Section 6AAA.

The wins came over Blake on Feb. 28 and Benilde-St. Margaret’s on March 4. With the wins, the Spartans set up a rematch of last year’s section final against the Hutchinson Tigers on March 9.
In taming the very young Bears, Orono relied upon a stifling first half defense, holding Blake to only 12 points and then paced themselves to a 25-point victory. As Blake rebuilds its program, it features a number of freshmen and even eighth graders who were determined, but ultimately no match for this Spartan team. Orono displayed some of their bright, young talent, too, including the deep three-point shooting of Kristin Van Buren and power from Rachel Constant. Constant grabbed four rebounds to maintain the lead.

“Players are getting more comfortable in their roles and expanding their roles daily by work hard,” Glover-Verhagen said. “We’ve had our moments this season that might drive a fan crazy, but we’ve always found a way to push through and fight.”

The BSM Knights were coming in off a convincing upset victory over Delano in the section’s first round and the Spartans were a bit shorthanded as junior Madeline Loder, the team’s second leading scorer, was limited by illness. The youth movement continued with the freshman trio of Lauren Reeves, Amelia Singleton and Sadie Koltes, who all scored in the 64-41 victory.

While the Coach was thrilled to see the development of the young Spartans, it marked the last home game for four seniors who leave the program as the winningest class in school history. Glover-Verhagen’s four senior co-captains, Tori Andrew, Natalie Smaron, Ellen Nehotte and Mattea Rice, dating to their freshman season, have won a school record 97 games, with only 18 losses. The seniors have also earned four straight outright or shared Wright County Conference East regular season titles.

“This senior class has truly been a wonderful group,” Glover-Verhagen said. “Their effort and hard work has clearly paid off. It is amazing to know that they accomplished so many things and I know after basketball they will continue to great things.”

In the BSM game, Andrew became the school’s all-time leading scorer and tied the school’s mark for career double-doubles when she paired ten rebounds with her team high 20 points. Smaron has already smashed the school’s single season record for rebounds and has set a new season record with 12 double-doubles when she posted 12 points and 11 rebounds. Smaron has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 24 out of 27 games this season.

Those seniors hope the season ends with 101 wins and the school’s first state championship, but that will require defeating number-one ranked Hutchinson.