MCM looks to use size advantage against quick Todd County squad
SALEM—McCook Central/Montrose finished last season's Class A girls basketball state tournament in fourth place after entering as the No. 3 seed.
The roles have been reversed this season as the Fighting Cougars begin the state tournament on Thursday as the No. 6 seed, facing third-seeded Todd County at 5 p.m. at Sioux Falls Arena.
MCM comes in with an 18-4 record—all four losses came to teams that reached the state tournament or SoDak 16—and head coach Doug Durfee believes seeds can be set aside at this point in the year.
"In the postseason, the seeds can get thrown out the window," he said. "Look at Madison—last year they were the eighth seed and made it to the title game. It's anyone's ballgame. It just depends on who's going to be playing the hardest, who's going to be playing the best this weekend and who can put three games together."
Todd County has a 22-2 record and a potent offense, but MCM holds a significant size advantage and it hopes to exploit that on both ends of the court.
The Falcons average 73.4 points per game, but their tallest starter is 5-foot-7 and the tallest player on the roster is 5-9, while MCM's shortest starter is 5-8. Not only should Todd County face an uphill battle on the boards, but it could also face mismatches on defense.
The Fighting Cougars will look to pound the ball into 6-3 junior Abigail Van Ruler (11.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks) and 6-foot sophomore Madisen Koepsell (13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds), while bringing 5-10 freshman Ashtyn Wobig off the bench.
"We need to take advantage of our height and our athleticism," Durfee said. "We've got some good shooters and we have some girls in the backcourt that have size also. If we can put them down (in the post) if we have some favorable matchups, we'll take advantage of that, too."
Defensively, MCM must contain the highest scoring backcourt in the tournament as guards Raven Cournoyer and Kelsie Herman average 23.7 and 20 points per game, respectively.
That means extending its zone and using the length of guards McKenna Kranz, Jacy Pulse and Morgan Erikson—who combine for 5.8 steals per game—to limit open shots on the perimeter, as well as open driving lanes.
"They've got a lot of weapons," Durfee said. "They're fast, they're athletic, they can shoot it—very good at penetration and making decisions off the dribble. The key for us is going to be to get ball pressure out extended, but still keep them in front to limit penetration."
Todd County is making its first state tournament appearance since 2005.