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MVP enters state tournament on eight-game winning streak

Mount Vernon/Plankinton forward Katlyn Briggs (45) spins for a shot against Parkston during the 2018 Region 5A quarterfinals in Wagner. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

PLANKINTON—Mount Vernon/Plankinton has had its ups and downs this season, but the Titans roll into the Class A state girls basketball tournament red-hot.

MVP opened its season with back-to-back blowout losses, but rattled off wins in the ensuing eight games, before hitting a skid that brought four losses in five outings, capped by a 17-point loss to Ethan on Feb. 8.

The No. 8 Titans (17-6) haven't lost since, though, cruising to eight consecutive wins—including a 58-53 win over No. 4 Hamlin in the SoDak 16—to set up a date with top-seeded and undefeated West Central at 1 p.m. on Thursday at the Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

"The girls are confident with each other and that's the biggest part," MVP head coach Preston Kristensen said. "We're playing well offensively and defensively and we're playing team basketball. ... Fighting and seeing that they have a chance has really brought this team together."

MVP faces a team in West Central (22-0) that won by 21 points in the season-opening game on Dec. 11. The Trojans received a late-game scare from No. 16 Crow Creek in the SoDak 16, but eventually pulled out a three-point win.

On the offensive end, MVP is centered around 6-foot-1 forward Katlyn Briggs, who leads the team with 13.6 points per game, 7.3 rebounds and shoots 55 percent from the field.

Perhaps the most crucial player offensively, however, is point guard Emilee Fox. The seventh-grader is a do-it-all player that averages 9.1 points, 4.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game and sank a pair of free throws in the waning moments to clinch the win over Hamlin.

Seniors Hailey Walz (7.3 points) and Mikaela Cassidy (5.7 points) provide leadership, along with an extra scoring punch if needed.

"She's very calm with the basketball," Kristensen said of Fox. "She can score, she find the open girl around the hoop—she kind of does it all for us. (Walz and Cassidy) have played a lot of tough games and lately they've played well at the offensive and defensive end for us."

The Trojans scored 63 points in the first meeting and average nearly 60 per game, but the Titans have surrendered just 39 points per game during the winning streak, which includes a victory over sixth-seeded McCook Central/Montrose.

West Central does not boast a double-digit scorer, but seven players average six points or more—led forward Megan Madsen's 9.5—so keeping track of potential open shooters on the perimeter is key.

"We look to match energy every minute we're out there and do things that we do well," Kristensen said. "I think our team has really come together on the defensive side, so it should be a good test for us to make sure we're flying around, covering our areas and getting hands on passes."

West Central placed third in Class A last season, while MVP's last trip to state was a third-place finish in 2015.

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