Hulne: Area girls basketball teams are picking up their play

As the winter season slowly marches past the midpoint of the season, one thing is pretty clear. There is some really good girls basketball playing in the Austin Daily Herald’s coverage area and it’s likely going to stay that way for at least a few years.

The area is loaded with teams that are currently thriving and good teams that are set up for even more success in the future.

In Class ‘A,’ No. 1 Lyle-Pacelli (14-1 overall) and No. 3 ranked Hayfield (13-3 overall) (14-1 overall) are the top dogs and both teams are senior-heavy with big hopes this season.

Hayfield’s Maggie Streightiff lunges for a lose ball against Lyle-Pacelli in the first half this season. Herald File Photo

Hayfield, which last played in the state tournament in 2008, is hoping to make a push with a talented group, and LP, which last played in the state tournament in 2015. Both teams have their eyes on a state title, but they’ll have to get past each other as both play in a very competitive Section 1A, which also includes No. 4 ranked Goodhue the defending state champs.

LP has been running like a well-oiled machine this season as Kristi Fett has dominated the paint and Abby Bollingberg and Olivia Christianson have also picked up the scoring load when needed. LP has experience and determination on its side, which will make it a tough team to deal with for anyone.

The Vikings have recently shown that they have a lot of heart and they certainly aren’t going to quit. Hayfield picked up a win over Goodhue with its top scorer Maggie Streighitff out of the lineup last week and it knocked off Stewartville, which is ranked No. 8 in Class ‘AA,’ without Streightiff or Carrie Rutledge, another key scorer for Hayfield. Junior Elecia Brown has taken her game to new levels recently, giving Hayfield another solid option as it sets its sights on a strong finish.

While the Austin girls basketball team isn’t thinking about state titles just yet, the Packers are laying the ground-work for the start of a successful run. Austin seniors Emily Hegna and Paiton Schwab have had a solid influence on their younger teammates sophomore Kyra Walter and eighth graders Hope and Emma Dudycha. Juniors Abby Lewis and Kiwi VanZant have also been consistent for Austin (7-5 overall).

Austin’s Abby Lewis runs the baseline during the second half against Nothfield this season. Herald File Photo

If the Packers can continue to grow this year, the team can be a force to be reckoned with if Colie Justice and Elyse Hebrink are able to come back healthy.

Blooming Prairie (9-2 overall) and Grand Meadow (11-4 overall) are flying a little bit under the radar this season, but both teams have shown they can be competitive against tough competition and both have youth on their side to be even better in the future. GM has a legitimate pair of go-to scorers in junior Jordyn Glynn and sophomore Riley Queensland and BP has a strong trio of seniors in Ayren ingvalson, McKenna Hein and Sam Wurst, and a solid group of young players that includes standout freshman Megan Oswald.

It’ll be interesting to see how all of these teams finish when tournament play begins in nearly a month. For now, it’ll be nice to watch them try and continue to improve on a nightly basis.

Blooming Prairie’s McKenna Hein heads up for a layup against Southland recently. Herald File Photo